Mayor and Councillors
Leaders of the faith community present
Senior Government officials from various departments/organs of State
Teachers, Learners and Parents
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of our Government and people of South Africa, today we join the bereaved family to eulogise about a life cut short. It is indeed a darkest day in the life of this family, this school, this community and indeed our nation at large. It may sound hollow, but we are indeed terrible sorry for your loss. We share in your grief. No amount of knee jerk reaction and political announcements will bring back Gadimang. He is lost to us all. May his gentle soul rest in peace! On our side, we shall know no rest until we have arrested the scourge of murder and mayhem in our society.
Let me reiterate this point, murder and mayhem have no place in our schools. What has happened in this home and this community is indeed heart-breaking. A mother and a family have lost a beloved son. The whole household has lost a breadwinner. Even more saddening is that he was in the process of building his own new family. We as a nation must be ashamed that we devour our own children.
As a basic education sector, we have lost a talented young teacher. This needless killing brings into sharp focus the question of school safety. We must emphasise that the school safety issue is a societal matter that requires all of us to engage in a dialogue about strengthening the social fabric of our society. But such dialogue is too late for Gadimang.
As I was driving here the words from the Holy Bible Job 1:21 (New Living Translation), kept rigging in my ear, the relevant verse read thus:
He said, "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!"
Programme Director, as the Basic Education Department, we subscribe to the notion of creating safe, caring and supportive school environment for all. We believe that schools are inherently safe havens for learning and nurturing young minds. We are firmly of a view that safe and secure schools offer our learners an opportunity to develop their full potential without any hindrance.
In this scenario, a teacher is a shepherd. He is a nurturer of young minds. He shares his wisdom with hungry minds. He imbues societal values to the growing minds. A teacher is a foundation of any school, community and society. Hence, teaching is known as a mother of all professions. Without, teachers, there would be no doctors, scientists, mechanical engineers, and psychologists etc. Therefore, we must all protect teachers and the profession of teaching.
Programme Director, we are fully aware that this type of violent crime experienced in this school has a profound impact on teachers and learners beyond this province.
Any violent conduct within our schooling environment has dire consequences for the system as a whole. It may lead to fewer learners enrolling for teaching qualifications, mass resignation of existing teachers, and low morale amongst teachers, increased learner drop-out, and low levels of academic performance.
But, the reality is that we live in a violent society. Just last week the Minister of Police released statistics showing that some 20 000 lives were lost in just one year. So clearly, in this country, crime is a common feature, thus it’s also found inside our school premises. This is so because learners are a mirror to behaviour that they see within their communities, and homes. As we know our children’s lives are peppered with violence, either in the homes or on the streets. As a nation, we have simply not dealt with our violent past and the impact of societal violence on our children.
The high level of violence in schools reflects a complicated combination of past history and recent stresses on individuals, schools, and broader communities. Sadly, no amount of state-of the-art security measures will rid our society of this scourge. We need to talk. We need to heal as a nation.
We are making an appeal to communities to come on board and take responsibility for instilling a sense of what is right and wrong in their children.
We need parents, communities and civil society organisations to play their part in resolving this nightmare. As parents, we need to teach our children that there are other ways of resolving conflicts. We need to drive the point home that a life is precious commodity, and it cannot wantonly be taken away. Our Constitution reinforces the sanctity of life. Parents need to teach the children the values that focus on respect for self, others and the environment in which they live.
In cases of any transgression being identified, disciplinary actions need to be taken swiftly against all troublesome youngsters early on, before a violent incident escalates into killing. In the case of the perpetrator in this case, he is to face the full might of the law. But it’s hollow victory. We shouldn’t as a society raise our children in the correctional services environment.
Equally, as parents, we shouldn’t bury our young ones when they still have so much to achieve. This is the scourge that we must fight with everything we have. To kill a anybody is totally devastating to the living, but killing a teacher is an unforgivable crime. It’s a crime against the people of this country. It should be considered as treason together with killing a police official.
However, we need long-term solutions not knee jerk reactions at the time of sorrow like this.
No dust settling in the aftermath of this gruesome shall make us stop in our quest to find long-lasting solutions.
In this regard, we are calling for an urgent national summit on schools safety. We hope the collective wisdom of our people will help us to nip this in the bud. I am going to speak to the President, and say we have to stop being penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to school safety. I am going to propose to the schools summit that we conduct a nationwide security assessment of all our schools. After the assessment is conducted, each school should be graded from 1 to 3. One is being low; two is being medium and three requires urgent intervention. If a school achieves a score of 3, then security measures must be beefed up immediately. This must include physical security, regular police raids and patrols. But most importantly, all high risk schools with a score of three must immediately be instructed to form a School Safety Forum. This must be led by the SAPS together with the SGB.
We already have a Memorandum of Understating with the Police Department. In terms of the a protocol with the South African Police Service (SAPS), every police station must adopt a school to deal speedily with incidents of violence and criminality within school premises. Other package of interventions for high risk schools must include crime awareness workshops, and provision of psychosocial services.
Programme Director; we have been warned about the deteriorating nature of safety and security in our schools. In the National School Violence Study conducted in 2012, it gave us an early warning that not all was well in the state of our schools. The study showed at most primary and secondary schools (learners and teachers) experienced some form of violence. At the time the most common thread was threats of violence, assaults and robbery. The same study revealed both principals and learners indicated that there was an easy access to alcohol, drugs and weapons within the school. More than half of the secondary school principals reported incidents involving weapons in their schools and three quarters reported incidents involving drugs or alcohol. One in three secondary school learners know classmates who have been drunk at school, while more than half know learners who smoke dagga at school. There were no reports of any murders.
However, we understood these startling findings within a context of the family and community environments in which these learners live. Fore-instance, the same study showed that one in three primary schools and two in three secondary learners had easy access to alcohol in their communities.
While two in three secondary school learners thought it was easy to get access to a gun in their communities. Analysis of the research findings also showed that there’s a strong association between the home environment and violence at school, with one in ten primary school learners reporting parental use of illegal drugs. A similar percentage reporting their caregiver or parent had been in jail, and one in five secondary school learners reporting siblings who had been in jail. These factors, together with learners experience of corporal punishment at home and at school, all impact significantly on the likelihood of violence at school.
The findings of the study pointed to a need for an integrated strategy to deal head on with school violence, addressing both short-term and longer term change. Immediate measures suggested in the study included a situational prevention in the schools that can limit accessibility of dangerous weapons, drugs and alcohol on school grounds, as well as making schools generally safer. However, the report recommended that local economic development initiatives including expanded Early Childhood Programmes are necessary in the long term. The role of the ECD in a community is to offer support to children as well as parents, providing pro-social parenting skills to parents as well as directly addressing learners more direct needs.
In response to this study, we developed an all-inclusive strategy to guide the schools in addressing violence, namely the National School Safety Framework. In addition, we have finalised a Psychosocial Support Strategy to guide institutionalisation of psychosocial support in the sector.
Furthermore, we appointed a Ministerial Task Team to evaluate discrimination in textbooks and Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) towards a policy to promote diversity through curriculum text. I am happy to report that that Ministerial Task Team has submitted its final report, and we are processing it.
Programme Director, we are continuously monitoring the implementation of the national strategy for the prevention and management of alcohol and drug use in schools. Simultaneously, we are supporting and monitoring the implementation of the integrated strategy on HIV, STIs and TB in all provinces.
Moreover, all teachers are going back to school to be trained in values, human rights and citizenship. Training will take place through universities, with a specific focus on teachers of Life Orientation.
As from April 2015 we launched a partnership with the Centre of Justice and Crime Prevention and supported by the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This programme seeks to enhance school safety culture by improving school management and classroom practice, and includes the promotion of essential rights and values. It has been piloted with great success in several provinces and now it has been rolled out to all schools.
Programme Director, it is only through the combined efforts of school authorities, parents, community leaders and government that school violence can be addressed effectively. These efforts must be located within a broader framework of an intensive social crime prevention strategy that addresses much of the violence that is beyond the reach of police, and which occurs within the home environment.
In conclusion, “For we brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out of it.” 1. Timothy 6:7. God bless you ALL! May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and rise in glory!
I thank you.