Bullets hit class time

2017-05-30 06:00
Adrian Vancoller, chairperson of the school governing body, points to a bullet hole on the wall of Hillwood Primary School, a result of ongoing gang shootings.PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

Adrian Vancoller, chairperson of the school governing body, points to a bullet hole on the wall of Hillwood Primary School, a result of ongoing gang shootings.PHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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Parents from Lavender Hill say it’s time to fight for the safety of their children and teachers as they travel to school.

Parents of Hillwood and Levana primary schools had a brief meeting last Tuesday following a gang shooting that left four teachers booked off sick. Some teachers sat in on the meeting as the parents resolved to stop school until the safety of their children and the teachers was addressed.

Parents say the situation is getting out of hand but education department officials expect them to act like things are normal.

In the shooting a 22-year-old man was shot in the chest at Shepherd Court.

Steenberg police spokesperson Warrant Officer John Bartlett confirms the shooting.

“A case of attempted murder was opened for investigation,” Bartlett says.

Adrian Vancoller, a parent and the chairperson of Hillwood’s governing board, says the shootings leave children and teachers in a bad state.

“Bullets fly out all the time, especially in morning when children are going to school and when they are going home. It’s a stressful situation because when the gangs start shooting, it rains bullets and you don’t even know which direction they are coming from. The school walls have bullet holes,” he says.

To show that they are serious and they want something done by the department, parents locked the gates of the schools last Wednesday.

There was no school again yesterday as there was shooting in the morning and over the weekend.

“Children can’t even concentrate. We want the department of education to tell us what they are doing. Yes, we have a police van when schools come out but that’s not enough. At times they park so far because they are also scared,” adds Vancoller.

The school used to have safety marshals provided by the Department of Community Safety. Parents say they were taken away as department officials said the money had dried up.

Ewald Botha, spokesperson of the Department of Community Safety, says the school safety marshal programme started last year saw community members being recruited from the ranks of local neighbourhood watches (NHW).

“These people were then placed at schools to assist with access control at the gates and menial tasks to help improve discipline and refer any criminal incidents to the school, the education department and, if necessary, the police. During this time they were paid a daily stipend under the expanded public works programme (EPWP). The two main challenges with this particular programme that are now being addressed is firstly, that the EPWP (by directive from national government) limits the terms of a person to receive an EPWP stipend to no more than two years (most of the current volunteers have been on the programme for longer than two years).

“[The second challenge is] that most of the community members resigned from the NHW structures soon after being deployed as school safety marshals which in turn had the negative effect of weakening such NHW structures,” he says.

Orciallia Powell, a teacher of Hillwood Primary School, says education department officials don’t care.
“We are willing to be here and teach our children but the situation is just not working. We need to be safe and our learners also need to be safe,” she says.

Millicent Merton, spokesperson of the education department, says they are aware of the gang shootings in Lavender Hill that are impacting schooling in the area.

“Gangsterism is a broad societal issue and while the education department cannot be held solely responsible for it, we can try and minimise its impact in our schools. It is important to remember that due to the security measures the department has put in place in schools, schools are very often places of refuge when gang violence takes place in the community,” she says.

Merton adds that they are very concerned about the impact that the shooting is having on learners and teachers.

“We contacted police, who are responsible for community safety and crime control, who indicated that public order policing would be deployed to the area. The City of Cape Town has reportedly deployed the stabilisation unit to the area. Counselling has also been offered to the teachers.

“Communities are free to engage in protest action but cannot intimidate and prevent learners from going to school.”

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