‘Cops must save kids from gangs’

2017-06-06 06:00

Provincial education minister Debbie Schafer says for schools to function, heavy police presence is needed.

“This is the sad reality these schools face today. The question however is how long will this presence be there for? How long before new gang violence flares up in Lavender Hill or any other gang-infested ­community?”

Three schools in Lavender Hill have reopened after parents shut the gates, demanding safety for their children and teachers.

Parents prevented staff and learners from entering the school grounds on Wednesday 24 May, (“Bullets hit class time”, People’s Post, 30 May).

Four schools were officially closed on Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 May in the interests of learner and teacher safety.

“The recent flare-up of gang violence in Lavender Hill has brought a desperate community to its knees. While learners were unable to travel to and from school without fear of being shot in the crossfire between rival gangs, parents turned to schools to show their distress,” Shafer says.

She places the blame on national government for not improving policing and says the minister of police must bring back specialised gang units in the police.

Schafer says her department is doing all it can to protect learners while on schoolgrounds by deploying extra security guards and City of Cape Town school resource officers, but they need police to be visible in suburbs permanently. In the past, a strong police presence has helped to minimise the number of gang incidents reported, she says.

“I am very aware of the impact gang violence has on our schools and I am heartened by the strength and commitment of many of our teachers who have, during difficult times, ensured that they create a sense of normalcy in their schools so that teaching and learning continue,” says Schafer.

“[The provincial government does not] control the police nor do we have our own security force. Despite this, many of our teachers and parents look to me or education department officials for security support, when a strong police presence is in fact desperately needed to stabilise the area when violence flares up.”

Last week, Schafer says, she was informed by schools that there was one police van patrolling the Lavender Hill area, and that when the van left, the shooting started again. This shows the impact of police presence, she says.

“From the school context alone, it is evident that police officers are not making any major inroads in preventing, combating and investigating crime, and that they are failing in protecting and securing our learners. This is mostly not because they do not want to, but because they simply do not have sufficient resources, both human and physical. More police presence results in more teaching and learning, resulting in more opportunities for young and educated leaders,” says Schafer.

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