Top tips to keep children safe at school and at home

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"About 23% of children who go missing in our country are trafficked, found dead, or never found." Photo: Getty Images
"About 23% of children who go missing in our country are trafficked, found dead, or never found." Photo: Getty Images

According to Missing Children South Africa, 23% of children who go missing in South Africa are trafficked, found dead, or never found.

According to two professionals with experience in this area, some of these kidnappings are due to inadequate security measures in public schools and homes.

Read: 'Use what you have': Silent Rights provide helpful tips to keep you safe this festive season

Anneli Retief, Head of Dialdirect, explains where issues may arise in schools and how to put adequate security measures in place.  

Safe at school 

1. Installing effective access control systems

Schools need to be extra vigilant as criminals are increasingly targeting young children of school-going age.

Retief says that schools can start by having an effective access control system to thoroughly screen visitors before entering the premises.

Having an intercom and cameras installed at the gate where pre-screening is done before visitors proceed to the security desk or admin block is also a smart move, she says.

2. Training staff members

The second tip is to have staff members who are well trained, ideally, by a reputable security company for basic crime prevention steps and emergency protocols, says Retief.

3. A sturdy perimeter wall or palisade fence

Retief says that a sturdy perimeter wall or palisade fence offers privacy and first defence. Ideally, having a secure and sturdy access gate that is operated remotely and opened and closed quickly limits criminals' window of opportunity, she says.

Adding that, it's best to ensure that the gates can't be lifted off their rails with a crowbar and that gate motors are well hidden and can't be accessed easily.

Retief also advises schools to have security beams around and inside the school premises for extra security. These beams will serve as an early warning system, allowing the school and its security company more time to react.

Another tip for securing your school environment is to have an alarm system linked to a reputable armed response company, including a panic button.

4. Burglar bars

Installing burglar bars made of rigid materials and fixed so they can't be easily bypassed, broken, or pried open on windows and security gates on all doors helps, according to this expert.

She says that schools with older buildings must ensure that the weld that fixes burglar bars to the window frame is sturdy.

5. CCTV systems

Retief says that having CCTV systems and monitoring them remotely to keep an eye on the school grounds can help provide valuable footage should the school be broken into.

When it comes to your child's safety at school, it is paramount for parents to understand what protective measures are put in place in their child's school to prevent crime. She urges parents to teach their children how to access help in an emergency during the school day.

Must read: Two life-saving tricks parents can teach their kids to help them if they ever get lost

Safe at home

The home environment provides different challenges, and Seugnette van Wyngaard, Head of 1st for Women Insurance, offers tips to ensure home security.  

Keep your eyes open

One piece of advice Van Wyngaard gives to parents is to keep their eyes open when it comes to strangers loitering near their little ones.

She says that parents need to avoid being distracted by a phone or any activity that might make them unaware of their surroundings. When you see anything untoward, report it to the authorities, she says.

Avoid dangerous areas

Avoid spots where parents can quickly become separated from their children or where their children can soon disappear in the masses, she says, adding that it is essential to teach children to be in a well-protected and monitored area where a responsible adult or authority is nearby at all times, says Van Wyngaard.

She says that protecting children starts on your doorstep. This means ensuring that your home is thoroughly secured against would-be kidnappers.

'Who are you going to call?'

Van Wyngaard says that it is essential for parents to instruct their children to call them immediately when something is amiss or a change in plans they haven't cleared with you, even if it comes from someone they know well.

She adds that children need to know important information such as their address, home phone number, parents cell number, and emergency contact numbers.

Identity check

Van Wyngaard's advice to parents is to instil a healthy sense of scepticism in their children when it comes to their identities so that when someone claims that they are an official or claim to know their mother, the child can send them to you [the parent] for verification.

Public spaces 

In cases where your child needs to go out without you, Van Wyngaard says that your child should always take a friend with them or a responsible adult who can take charge and keep them safe.

Tracking apps and panic buttons

She says parents should use technology at their repository by downloading tracking apps and having panic buttons for their children so that they know where their child is at all times and allow their children to alert them immediately if need be.

According to Van Wyngaard, parents must speak to their children about safety, reassure them that they can trust them, and talk to them about absolutely anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, confused, or frightened.

Here are some of emergency numbers parents can encourage their children to memorise:

  • Nationwide Emergency Response: 10111
  • Mobile phone emergency hotline: 112
  • Ambulance/ Fire Brigade: 10177

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