Minister of Police, Mr. Bheki Cele
Minister of Social Development, Ms. Susan Shabangu
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv. Michael Masutha
Minister of Sport and Recreation, Tokozile Xasa
Deputy Minister, Mr. Enver Surty
Representatives from the Human Rights Commission
School Governing Body Associations
Representatives from Faith-Based Organisations
Learner Organisations and Social Partners
Ladies and Gentleman
Programme Director; it only appropriate that I ask all of you to rise and observe a moment of silence for all our dearly departed souls in the sector as a result of school violence in the recent past.
Moment of silence!!!!
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this second, “Schools Safety Summit.” I take this opportunity to thank the organizers for putting this event together at such a short notice. I wish to express my gratitude to all my colleagues in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, both for you input and presence here today. To all our stakeholders and social partners, this event would have been a meaningless exercise without your presence. We thank you all for placing the safety and security of our public schooling system first. Indeed, we are in this together.
The theme for this Schools Safety Summit is, “Strengthening Safety Nets and Ensuring Safe School Environment for Teaching and Learning.” The theme is a call to action for all of us to protect and advance towards an optimal safety standards in the public schooling sector.
Programme Director, as the Basic Education Department, we subscribe to the notion that our core business is to provide an enabling environment for learning and teaching to take place.
Such an environment must be safe, caring and supportive to all schools’ stakeholders. We believe that schools must inherently be safe havens for learning, and the nurturing of 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 impediment.
But, our schools are increasing becoming a crime scene. From the outset, I must say there’s indeed a correlation between high levels of criminality in our society which then manifest into our schools. Guns come from communities; the knives [and] the anger come from communities. We, as society need to sit down and say: ‘What more do we need to do to raise morally upstanding children?’
Hence, a month ago, after the killing in broad daylight of our dear teacher, Ntate Gadimang Daniel Mokolobate, I called for this summit. I still insist like I did a month ago that the solution to the deteriorating security situations in our schools can only be solved by the collective wisdom of our people. I refuse to come here and engage in political gymnastics with a sole intention of pacifying our learners, employees and stakeholders. We have reached beyond that point of political posturing. I must say for the records that it’s true that there’s no line item in the basic education budget designated as schools’ security. So yes, we do not have a budget to provide every school with optimal levels of security.
However, the reality is that we have a Constitutional obligation to provide basic education. Therefore, providing safety and security in schools is in fact embedded in the Constitutional injunction to provide basic education.
Despite this, as a caring Government, we also have a moral obligation to respond to the crisis as a collective. This is particularly so because schools in particular and basic education in general contribute to the public good. Therefore, basic education is deserving of the allocation of public investment, and in need of public control, (Phillips & Schweisfurth, 2007:60). In this scenario, violence, crime and corruption become an anathema to the realisation of the public good enterprise.
In any event, we are the employer of all teachers; hence they expect a level of certainty about their working conditions. On the other hand, as I said before, the Constitution demands of us to provide basic education to our learners, hence they too expect an enabling environment that allows for teaching and learning taking place in peace.
Programme Director, public schooling is very important in our nascent democracy. Despite providing our learners with gateway skills to the market place, public schooling also imbues societal values to the growing minds.
The very future of our fledgling democracy hinges on the success of our basic education system that consciously plays a pivotal role in moving our people away from unequal social and economic reproduction of apartheid to more equal opportunities for all. It is therefore in the interest of society to keep the lights on for public schooling in-order for it to thrive and thus for our democracy. We must refuse for our public schooling to be cast aside as a second class system designed for second class citizens.
To this end, we must pay particular attention in protecting the system of public education from the prying eyes of the private schooling service providers. Thus, our teachers must really be regarded as a backbone of this system. In this regard, we must do everything in our power to protect them. As we know, 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 our teachers and the profession of teaching itself. In the same vein, we must protect our learners. In the words of the former ANC President Mr. Oliver Tambo, ‘the children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future.’
We must be mindful 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. Therefore, the violence seen at schools accentuates the dictum that schools are in fact the microcosm of society. Just last month the Minister of Police released statistics showing that some 20 336 people were murdered in just one year. So clearly, in this country, violent crime is a common feature; hence it’s also found inside our school premises. This is so because learners are a mirror to the behaviour 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 can’t be wantonly taken away. Our Constitution reinforces the sanctity of life.
In the fullness of time, we will realise that the solution to our crime ridden society lies with us as parents. We need to teach our children the values that focus on respect for self, others and the environment in which they live.
Programme Director; it cannot be overemphasised that for us to succeed as a sector, we depend on our partnership with all civil society organisations to help us build spiritually and morally conscious as well as healthy communities. We need our social partners to lead the drive towards the restoration of Ubuntu in society. I am calling upon all women and men to ensure that civic organisations live up to their mission and gets involved in addressing issues that affect our communities and thus our schools.
In conclusion, Programme Director; at the funeral of our dearly departed teacher Gadimang, I made a proposal that I want to repeat here today. My proposal to you Minister Cele is that please help us to conduct a nationwide security assessment of all our schools. That assessment will give us the landscape of the crisis. After the assessment is conducted, each school should be graded from 1 to 3. One, being low risk; two, being medium risk and three, being high risk thus requiring 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 when none exists. This must be led by the SAPS together with us and the SGBs.
Finally, 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. It addresses much of the violence that is beyond the reach of police, and which occurs within the home environment. I wish you well in your deliberations.
I thank you.