Bullets halt teaching

2016-10-18 06:00
Teachers of Hillwood Primary School headed a demonstration last week, calling for a safe learning and teaching environment in Lavender Hill.Teachers of Hillwood Primary headed a placard demonstration to call for safe learning and teaching environment. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

Teachers of Hillwood Primary School headed a demonstration last week, calling for a safe learning and teaching environment in Lavender Hill.Teachers of Hillwood Primary headed a placard demonstration to call for safe learning and teaching environment. PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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Teachers from all five of the schools in Lavender Hill participated in a placard demonstration on Prince George Drive on Thursday 13 October. They were calling for peace and a safer learning and teaching environment.

The demonstration was organised after a shooting incident on Monday 10 October, described as “raining bullets”.

On Tuesday 11 October teachers from Hillwood first demonstrated in front of their school. On Wednesday 12 October teachers of Levana Primary School also joined the demonstration. All five schools then joined in on Thursday, with protests held during interval time. The teachers say it’s not normal for them to be expected to teach or children to learn after shootings.

A teacher of Hillwood Primary School, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says it was a harrowing experience.

“[The bullets] were coming from all directions. We had to lie on the classroom floor just to be safe because we didn’t know where the [shots] were coming from.

“This is something that happens all the time. It’s a pity for our learners that have to stay here. When we ask them about this they say they have given up on their beds. They sleep under the beds. This is sad. It’s even sad for our families, they have to worry about us each time we say we are coming to work because we don’t know if we will come back home safe,” she says.

A safety and security committee has been formed. Mark Peters, chairperson of the committee and deputy principal of Hillwood, says it’s time for them to take a stand.

“We can’t be faced with such a situation and be expected to teach as normal. This is not normal. Our lives and those of our learners are in danger. After a shooting teachers are not themselves. It’s even worse for the learners but it seems the department is not even worried – they want us to go back to our classes and teach.”

Peters says people die in shootings in the area on a regular basis.

“It’s like this has become a norm, but we refuse to just sit and do nothing. Everyone is affected. Yes, we have seen police vans around but that is not enough. They have to be at other places and other schools as well, as this affects other schools. Bring in greater police support, military support, because this will not stop now,” he says.

Lucinda Evans of the Steenberg Community Policing Forum says she is urging parents to stop running to school to fetch their children when shooting starts. “You are putting your lives and the lives of those children that you’re fetching in danger. Let them stay at school until the situation calms down. They are safe in the school premises.”

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson of the department of education, says Lavender Hill is very volatile at the moment and school safety is a concern.

“Learners are mainly at risk while travelling to and from schools. The police will have to ensure greater visibility to ensure the safety of our learners. When there are reports of violence taking place in a certain area, schools implement their safety plan. During an incident of gang violence and or trespassing, the Safe Schools call centre ensures that the relevant authorities are alerted to deal with gang intimidation and threats and gang shootings in and around the school,” she says.

She adds that community safety and crime control are the responsibilities of the police.

“The increase in violence could have an adverse effect on teachers, learners and parents. We have to depend on the law enforcement agencies to follow through, to ensure safe communities as they are mandated to do.”

She says the education department will continue to provide counselling for teachers and learners who need it.

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