School safety boost

2018-02-06 06:00
UCT’s Prof. John Cartwright addressed learners at Crystal High School in Hanover Park last week.

UCT’s Prof. John Cartwright addressed learners at Crystal High School in Hanover Park last week.

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Learners and teachers at Crystal High School in Hanover Park were given a boost last week when the school received two new school resource officers (SRO).

Dino Abrahams, principal of Crystal High School, says that the school as been part of the programme since its inception as a pilot project in 2012.

In 2012, the education department and the City of Cape Town launched the joint project.

An SRO is a Metro Police officer assigned to a school on a long-term basis to help make schools safe learning environments.

“We just felt that it was necessary for us to again inform the learners of the purpose of the programme. We had [UCT’s Prof. John Cartwright] here to just explain to the children what the purpose and main aim of these officers is. They had an exhibition of the things that the SROs will confiscate from the learners,” says Abrahams.

The SRO personnel has not changed, explains Abrahams, but the school has now been assigned a man and a woman officer.

“I believe that there are 18 schools who have SROs at their school.

“The learners don’t necessarily like the policing that happens at school. No young person likes all these rules. They might want some order, but not necessarily someone in a uniform,” adds Abrahams.

He adds that the onus is still on the teachers to instil discipline into its student body, but Abrahams admits that all help available is welcome.

“Society has changed and the conditions that we work under have changed. The environment in which we work is slightly different: There is a need to augment and to support the teaching staff in an environment like this,” he says.

There are various stakeholders taking part in the programme, including the City of Cape Town’s metro police and Law Enforcement officers as well as local police.

The role of the SROs is not necessarily dealing with the discipline at the school, but because of the situation in which Hanover Park finds itself, this has become necessary, Abrahams says.

“Their main focus is to bring resources to the school to assist the learners in their development. What has happened, because of the context in which we work, somehow the functions have drifted to policing and to disciplining, but that is not supposed to be their role.

“If the school operates with a code of conduct and you implement it and you have the various layers of authority, you are supposed to see to the structured running of the school as well as its discipline.

“There has been a shift in their focus too, because of the changes which are happening at our school,” explains Abrahams.

“There are two things which we are challenged with. There is the criminal element, because of the gang war taking place outside the school. The other is the free access kids have to drugs. Just on those two aspects, in the last couple of weeks we have had incidents outside the school where one gang would come and, because kids are at the school, they wait until the school is ­dismissed.

“When there is an incident, immediately the SROs can call in for extra manpower to come into the school and assist in order to diffuse and deal with the situation.”

Abrahams says that a huge challenge at the school is the passing of items through the school fence, between the community and pupils.

“[The learners] have been searched on numerous occasions and been found to have dagga on them and the SROs either call in the local police or call in their own people and immediately something gets done, whereas in the past it was a challenge to deal with a situation like that. Now at least [we] are dealing better with the issues. Obviously if there is more visibility, more kids will not try to commit wrongdoing.

The SROs have also ensured safety on the school premises and the children feel much safer, Abrahams says.

“In my 35 years [of teaching] absenteeism in township schools has lots of factors that impact on it. It is not just that an SRO will necessarily decrease absenteeism because of all the factors which caused the learner to stay at home in a community like this. We still have lots of work to do in terms of bringing down that percentage.

“What I can say is that we all feel a bit safer and we are dealing with issues more effectively.

“What we are asking for is visibility, in the morning before school starts and at the end of the day. Schools in an environment like this are asking for [help]. They have the walking bus group, but it is a group of ladies, so we are just asking the police to be around the school when children are on their way to school, to be visible.”

The City of Cape Town had not commented on the project at the time of going to print.


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