A proposal that was brought forward for teachers to carry firearms was rejected by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). According to the Department, the call was “irresponsible, reckless and dangerous”.
“This can only escalate the violence that is already causing huge distress among our teachers, learners and the community in general,” the Department said in its response to the proposal. “The union that has called for teachers to be armed is not a recognised union in the basic education sector. The Department is, however, extremely concerned about the escalating violence involving learners and educators, particularly within the vicinity of schools. The violence has left both learners and educators deceased, others injured, and perpetrators facing lengthy jail terms.”
The majority of the cases observed have stemmed from unresolved issues that have escalated to violent attacks. Many of the attacks have also occurred outside of school premises. “We have also observed the rise in gang-related activity involving learners and violent incidents ending in unnecessary loss of life. The Department is very concerned that the violence has increasingly spilled into schools, causing untold emotional trauma and disruption to the learning and teaching environment.”
The Department has reiterated that it does not condone any sort of violence, including the rampant problem of bullying in schools. It has the following measures in place to deal with bullying and other forms of violence in schools:
A long-standing protocol agreement with the South African Police Service
– Currently, 18 000 schools are linked to police stations within their vicinity. The agreement entails the police conducting random visits to educate learners about the dangers of crime and violence, starting with bullying
– The police are expected to conduct unannounced weapon and drug search and seizure operations in schools. In many such procedures, police confiscate weapons and drugs found in possession of learners. Disciplinary action is immediately taken against offending learners and their parents are called in
– In Life Orientation, learners are taught the importance of self-discipline, responsibility, respect for self and others, and other important life-skill tools
– The Department of Sports and Recreation has entered into a partnership with the Department of Basic Education, in which 2 500 schools, hubs, and sports clubs receive equipment and attire. This is part of an intervention to keep learners preoccupied and away from destructive activities.
The Department has also developed a code of ethical conduct for learners, as well as outlined the role of parents and the community at large.
Learners are expected to:
– Accept that the main reason for being in school is to learn and develop academically, socially and culturally
– Adhere to school rules
– Respect the legitimacy and authority of teachers
– Participate in Learner Representative Councils (LRCs) to safeguard your interests
– Show respect to other learners and not to discriminate
– Avoid anti-social behaviour like theft, vandalism, assault, sexual harassment, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as other activities that disrupt the learning process.
“The Department is deeply concerned that despite the measures in place, it appears that the anti-violence strategy is not yielding any results. The strategies require all stakeholders to play their part in making sure that the policies and guidelines are effectively implemented,” the DBE said. “Crime prevention and the teaching of positive values and morals require a joint effort from all stakeholders, as violent tendencies are not just a direct influence, but emanate from society.”
The role of parents
The department urges parents to assist the Department with maintaining learner discipline. This can be achieved through regular dialogue with learners, regular engagement with educators, checking of school bags and ensuring that learners are in school on a daily basis as expected. Parents and guardians are also expected to attend parent-teacher meetings at all times.
The role of the community
Community members often know about simmering tensions in their environment. The Department, therefore, urges members of the community to take responsibility for ensuring that children of school-going age are in school on time every day. Learners in school uniform seen roaming the streets during school learning time must be held to account.
The Department alone is not in a position to address violence and gangsterism. Solutions to violence in society require a collective approach. In communities where Education Forums (consisting of all stakeholders) have been established, disruptions to learning and teaching are minimised and school safety challenges are discussed.
“The Department remains committed to creating a conducive learning and teaching environment for all learners and educators. Schools should be gun- and violence-free spaces,” the DBE said.