Successful launch of Safer Schools Network in Mandela Metro

Successful launch of Safer Schools Network in Mandela Metro – Blog

In Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, a Safer Schools Network was launched as a vibrant platform for schools to discuss safety issues and find ways how to make our schools a safe and learner-friendly environment for learners and teachers.

In Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, a Safer Schools Network was launched as a vibrant platform for schools to discuss safety issues and find ways how to make our schools a safe and learner-friendly environment for learners and teachers.

Safety at schools around the country remains a big concern. In the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, many schools are reporting for example drug dealing, bullying, sexual abuse and gangsterism as part of the daily challenges. An unsafe school environment of this nature cannot be a conducive learning environment at the same time. If both teachers and learners feel unsafe in or around their schools, it will eventually result in low academic performance with all its negative consequences both for the underperforming individual as well as the community and society at large.

It is high time to bring the concerned stakeholders and schools together to find solutions for the growing challenges around schools safety.

The GIZ’s Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) programme in cooperation with Masifunde’s Youth for Safer Communites (YSC) project joined forces with the Project for Conflict Resolution and Development (PCRD) to create the Safer Schools Network as a vibrant platform for schools in the NMBM to discuss safety issues and find ways how to make our schools a safe and learner-friendly environment for learners and teachers.

The Safer Schools Network was officially launched on the Thursday, 28th July 2016, in the NMBM’s Department of Education.  

More than 70 participants followed the invitation, amongst them were principals and deputies from 32 schools, including all 15 hotspot schools of the National Department of Basic Education Ministerial Intervention Plan, representatives of the NMB Department of Safety and Liaison, chairpersons of the local Community Policing Forums, SAPS, the District as well as the Provincial Safer School Coordinator of the Department of Education and the Department of Social Development.

From NGO side three organisations were present, who are working on the increase of school safety in the Nelson Mandela Bay: PCRD together with the General Motors SA Foundation, who jointly implement the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) in several schools in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhague and Humansdorp. And Masifunde Learner Development who are implementing a youth-driven school safety approach within the YSC project in more than 32 high schools.

The plenary was honoured by the speech of the acting District Director of the Department of Education Mrs. Grobler who – as host – pointed out the importance of a safe school environment for academic success and the benefit of that network for all stakeholders in the field. The Provincial Safer Schools Coordinator Mr. Songca explained in his presentation the implementation of NSSF and the Ministerial Intervention plan in the Eastern Cape. Followed by Mrs. Jessie Bohr (VCP) who was drawing the bigger picture of GIZ’s commitment of violence & crime prevention on national and provincial level. Their main aim is to bring the concerned stakeholders together in order to improve the conditions for building safer communities. This starts already at school level. In this context GIZ and Masifunde are piloting since 2012 the Youth for Safer Communities Project. Mr. Jonas Schumacher showed in his speech the power of youth driven activities like YSC. It is a successful example of youth taking the initiative to make a difference in their schools and communities. YSC motivates the youth to play an active role in their school safety by establishing and running drama, debates and peer to peer groups.

Sometimes it seemed not easy for the two facilitators, Michael Bendle and Jonas Schumacher, to guide the participants who came from totally different backgrounds through the three participative brainstorming sessions. But Michael and Jonas were a great team and succeeded to bring all ideas together and cluster them into different areas, discussed them with the plenary and that in only two hours time!

The biggest concerns were around

  • loss of values / morality of learners and their parents
  • alcohol and drug abuse, drug dealing on or nearby school premises
  • bullying, sexual abuse
  • cell phones (theft, cyber crime, how to manage cell phones in class etc.),
  • gangsterism,
  • infrastructure of schools (fences, schools next to taverns, etc.) ,
  • There was definitely a wish for more presence of SAPS in the schools.

The participants had already some ideas on measures to increase school safety and announced the following topics to discuss in the next Safer Schools Network Meetings:

Concerning violence and crime prevention the school officials voted for the Youth for Safer Community Project in their school (all), conflict management courses for teachers and learners (14), how to implement NSSF in a more practical way, how to fight bullying, activities against alcohol and drug abuse,  how to involve parents and the community (5). The need of police presence in school premises should also be discussed in one of the next meetings (8 schools).

All participants have agreed to meet again at the end of September 2016 in order to take up one or two of the topics of interest.

The success factor of this meeting were definitely the present YSC facilitators , who assisted the organizing team in a most  professional way, by receiving and registering the guest, assisting technically and contently the facilitation team and decorating the big hall in a most attractive way. Another success factor was the support of the District Safety Coordinator Mr. Graham Papier, who constantly supported the whole process of the preparation and realization of that event.

The first Safer Schools Network Meeting started big, the following meetings must now keep the pace.