Thugs in schools play as they wish

2011-10-01 17:37

At Meadowlands High School in Soweto, some teachers drink with security guards during school hours.

But, according to students, they aren’t the only ones who use alcohol at school.

“Safety has always been a concern at our school with learners at times getting violent, especially against teachers, when under the influence of alcohol and dagga,” says 18-year-old Nancy*.

City Press visited schools in Gauteng after a report was recently tabled in the provincial legislature by its education committee highlighting some of the appalling security and safety issues at schools.

Lerato*, a fellow learner, says learners “seriously need to be protected”.?

She asks: “How are we expected to feel safe when teachers are also intimidated?”

Nancy believes most of their troubles are the result of outsiders gaining access to the school. She says these are the people who peddle drugs at the school.

Fellow student Sabelo* says “druggies” are the ones who steal from schools and vandalise school property.

“Our security guards know about outsiders on our school premises but they do nothing about it,” she says. “This compromises our safety.”

When City Press visited Meadowlands High this week, we witnessed a heated argument between two people – one in uniform and the other in plain clothes.

The plain-clothed man was not a pupil and the argument stemmed from an incident which occurred while they were gambling in the school toilets.

Learners claim people who are not students at the school can always be found gambling in the school toilets.

Sabelo says: “Most of these things (gambling and fights) are started by unruly learners in the toilets. If we had security at the toilets, most of these things would end.

“We feel there is nothing we can do as many interventions seem to have failed.”

Pupils complain that their input is not considered when safety interventions are implemented, which means they fail.

A pupil at Coronationville Secondary School in western Joburg says unannounced police searches and raids at the school should be stepped up and the authorities should consider getting metal detectors to prevent people from bringing dangerous weapons to school.

Phillip*, a Grade 9 learner in Coronationville, says some of his friends bring knives to school as they are not searched.

He is frequently intimidated by bullies at his school.

“I once saw a fellow learner steal our teacher’s laptop charger and was threatened with violence if I spoke,” he says.

The Gauteng provincial legislature report found that in several cases, security was non-existent, that “outside elements” brought drugs and dangerous weapons to schools and that schools’ own security was often compromised.

Deborah Ramachela, a teacher and safety committee coordinator at Eqinisweni Secondary School in Ivory Park, eastern Joburg, says learners are vulnerable because their school fence is repeatedly vandalised by outsiders intending to sneak in during breaks.

“Unwanted elements come in through holes in our fence. Some are gangsters who carry knives and threaten our learners,” she says.

She complains that the community does not prevent people from cutting holes in the fence.

Charles Phahlane, Gauteng department of education spokesperson, says measures are in place to improve safety in schools.

“To this end, the department appointed a director for school safety late last year who is implementing the safety strategy.
“We are also conducting unannounced raids in schools to rid them of drugs, weapons and other illegal substances,” he says.

Meanwhile, the legislature committee has given the department until October 31 to submit a progress report on work done with the community safety department to ensure the safety of learners, educators and assets at schools.

*?Not their real names

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