Johannesburg – The safety of pupils and teachers at Altmont Technical High School in Protea South, Soweto, has come under the spotlight following incidents where gangsters disrupted schooling.
Learning and teaching have been severely affected since the beginning of the 2023 academic year due to gangsters’ fighting at the school. The DA’s Gauteng Shadow MEC for Education, Khume Ramulifho said that during their school readiness tour at the school, they were met with disgruntled parents and community members who were concerned about the safety of their children.
The school achieved a 76.33% pass rate last year with 55 pupils achieving a Bachelor’s pass. In their engagement with the school management, Ramulifho said they had discovered that some scholars had substance-abuse issues and some brought weapons to school.
“Furthermore, the school is overcrowded. Despite efforts by the school management to involve the police, there are constant gang fights at the school. The DA proposes that the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) must implement an urgent integrated, safety plan involving social workers, police, the Community Policing Forum (CPF), and the School Governing Body (SGB) to identify the issues causing this disruptive behaviour and bring a permanent solution,” he said.
Ramulifho said they would submit written questions to the Gauteng MEC for Education, Matome Chiloane, to ascertain the effectiveness of the school’s safety strategy in the province.
School principal Mandu Mafata said gangsterism and violence negatively impacted learners’ performance and had to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Last year, a Grade 8 boy was stabbed in the neck by a Grade 9 pupil outside the school premises.
“We do have an issue of gangsterism at the school. These kids fight like cats and dogs and use just about anything, from chairs to knives to other weapons. This issue is serious and requires urgent attention. We need more than just a few police officers to manage the situation – we need the army to come and help,” Mafata said.
The spokesperson for the GDE, Steve Mabona, said the department was concerned about the ill discipline at the school.
“The Department of Education is deeply concerned about gangsterism and ill-discipline at the school. According to our records, our officials intervened and met all stakeholders on 19 September 2022 and 22 October 2022, to address the challenges. On 23 January 2023, a briefing session which entailed intervention strategies to contain the situation, was conducted at the said school,” said Mabona.
The department held a parenting workshop on Tuesday aimed at strengthening parent/guardian involvement in supervising homework and instilling learner discipline in and outside the school environment.
“Capacitating the SGB and Principal on Disciplinary Procedures for learners is vital. Our Constitution requires that the rights and responsibilities of victims and perpetrators are upheld at all times and consequently an extensive disciplinary procedure must be followed by the implantation of corrective measures.”
Mabona said GDE was implementing the following programmes to offset some of the challenges: Partnerships with Social Development and Community Safety and related NGOs.
“We have partnered with these departments and NGOs to access expertise that we do not have within the Department to deal with most of these social ills in our schools. The approach is both proactive and reactive. (School Talks and camps to inculcate good behaviour and awareness campaigns and referrals after certain incidents). Guided prison tours: Learners with various behavioural challenges and criminal tendencies are taken on a guided prison tour, in partnership with the Department of Correctional Services.”
Random school searches are also on the cards. High-risk schools are targeted for these searches in partnerships with SAPS and Metro Police as weapons, drugs and alcohol are frequently retrieved during these search and seizure operations.
“The expertise of trained principals and SGBs is then applied to formally charge learners, resulting in compulsory attendance of psycho-social and related programmes.”
Safer South Africa’s Justice Programme is another programme to be enforced by the department, in which pupils are given exposure to how the country’s justice system works, through interactions with the police and NPA. According to Mabona, a team of district officials has been allocated to assist the school on a daily basis.
“We strongly condemn any acts of misconduct, which seek to undermine the dignity of our learning institutions. Schools are urged to enforce their codes of conduct to deal with disciplinary matters.
“The department continues to appeal to parents to enforce discipline in and outside the school environment. We will continue to monitor the situation and intervene accordingly,” he said.