Creating Safer and Caring Schools

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

13 June 2007

Mr B Tolo

Documents handed out
Creating Safer and Caring Schools presentation
Governing Body Foundation (GBF) website
Governors’ Alliance (GA) website

Audio Recording of the Meeting

The Department of Education gave details of measures to improve safety in schools. Nine schools (one per province) are currently involved in a ministerial pilot project which provides safety via infrastructure. The infrastructure will be rolled out to the 65 schools worst affected by violence in each province. There are also some projects which focus more broadly on values as well as safety. The infrastructure rollout will be funded by provinces.

Responses to these plans were provided by the Governing Body Foundation and the Governors’ Alliance (GA). Committee members were concerned about the neglect of former schools of industry, teachers neglecting their duties and not being good role models, the effect of industrial action on learners, and with funding and implementation of policy.

The Chair opened the meeting with some remarks on the democratic rights of non striking teachers (as some school teachers had been on strike) and on the economic need for education and children’s need to be able to participate in the economy and for schools to be reclaimed from violence and drug abuse.

Summary of presentation on “Creating Safer and Caring Schools”
The Chief Director: Social Inclusion in the Department of Education, Mr Mzwandile Matthews, gave some details of measures to improve safety in schools. The South African Schools Act (SASA) of 1996 provides for the development of a Code of Conduct for public schools, the main focus of which must be positive discipline. The social goals involving human rights are also entrenched in the curriculum. Many question about violent incidents in schools were raised in Parliament recently. Some details of seven violent incidents, five of which were fatal, were given. There must be ‘something’ in children which makes them behave antisocially so the Department cannot focus on infrastructure rehabilitation alone.

In June 2006, the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) approved amendments to the 2001 regulations for Safety Measures at public schools in terms of the South African Schools Act. The CEM also agreed to provide walls, fences, high intensity lights and masts but also to strengthen relations between schools and neighbouring police stations; to introduce security officers at vulnerable schools; to introduce a school visitors register; to investigate the provision of counselling for learners affected by crime and violence and to identify schools affected by high levels of crime and violence for intervention.

The CEM also mandated the Deputy Minister to lead a team to investigate legislation regarding random searches for drugs and dangerous weapons. The Department, with Business against Crime, would investigate the installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras. The Department requested provincial education departments to identify the 65 schools worst affected by violence in their province. One of these schools in each province was selected for the Minister’s pilot project to create safer schools. The first part of the pilot focused on infrastructure, including security officers, steel palisade fencing, metal detectors, lighting at strategic points including a generator with a fixed steel cage built around it.

Besides infrastructure, in 2001 the Department gazetted regulations governing access to schools, prohibit dangerous weapons in schools and worked with the Ministry of Safety and Security in declaring schools firearm-free zones. The CEM amended these regulations in 2005 to regulate safety measures during school tours. Also with the Ministry of Safety and Security, the Department developed  a “signpost for Safer Schools" manual to guide school communities in the basics of ensuring safety and encouraged the “adopt a Cop” initiative, which is intended to make police the critical friends of the school.

The policy framework and guidelines for the prevention and management of drug use in schools has been developed, as a training manual on preventing and managing drug abuse, Random drug testing is envisaged as published in the Education Laws Amendment Bill. With the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP), the Hlayiseka Project, to develop a tool to identify, report and manage crime and violence has been piloted in three provinces. This project would be implemented in the 585 schools identified as most at risk by provinces . The CJCP would audit the 585 schools for planning future interventions.

Provinces had submitted costed business plans itemising everything from fences to programmes on conflict resolution.

With UNICEF, the Department had developed the concept of the Child Friendly School. Many details of the principles of the Child Friendly School were given but no details of strategic planning or time frames of how to realise the principles. An international programme, comprising modules that can be integrated into secondary curricula or taught alone to people aged 13-18, called Exploring Humanitarian Law, had been piloted in two schools and introduced to 900 teachers in 2004 as part of the Values in the Curriculum Project.

The Chair was displeased not to have a copy of the presentation before the meeting. He invited members of the Governors’ Alliance (GA) and the Governing Body Foundation (GBF) to comment or ask questions.

Mr Mike Kessel of the GBF said that the GBF welcomed the move to control drugs and violence and supported the Department’s efforts. They would also like to study the presentation and comment on it at a later date. The GBF approach is to canvas schools on the practicalities of implementation as well philosophy but the intention is not to find fault. The GBF had commented on some implementation issues to the Minister. These issues could lead to court action and affect implementation.

Ms Kathy Callaghan of the GA said that the GA had also commented on the Education Laws Amendment Bill to the Minister. Discipline was essential to education and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) should ensure it. All schools should have copies of the legislation on powers of search and seizure, the Code of Conduct, control of access to public places, the Criminal Procedure Act and the South African Schools Act (SASA). Schools should be trained in proper procedures because if they acted against a criminal element, without following follow proper procedures, provincial Heads of Department (HODs) overturned their decisions. The GA accepted the right to appeal but was convinced that it would not be instituted so often if proper procedures were followed when enforcing discipline.

Mr Tolo asked the SGB groupings to make their submissions available to the Committee as well as the Minister.

Ms J Masilo (ANC) thanked the presenter and added that she would like to see a provincial progress report on implementation.

Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC) said that the Department alone could not fight violence in schools. They should work hand-in-hand with other departments on social problems such as child-headed households and children who were corrupted by their home environments and poverty. It was necessary to look at the causes of violence. The Department should ensure that teachers were good example. She would also like to read the SGB bodies’ proposals and hear details of their activities.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) said that orphans, children in foster or kinship care, children with broken family circles were frustrated and unloved and this affected their behaviour. Parents too contributed to the social problem by offloading the results of poor parenting on the schools. Did psychologists still visit schools? It was necessary to pilot programmes but how long would it be before non-pilot schools were attended to. She was sceptical about the ‘Adopt a Cop’ programme because children in rural areas ran away when they saw a policeman.

Mr Matthews thanked the Committee for their comments. He apologised for late delivery of the documents but said that he had only been notified of the meeting the day before. The nine schools for Minister’s pilot project had been identified in September 2006 and they had been supplied with nearly all of the infrastructure mentioned. Provinces would be responsible for further roll-out. The provinces’ business plans would be integrated with other plans and R130 million had been allocated by provinces for the roll-out to 585 schools. At a later stage, the policy would be implemented in all schools in the country. Most schools had not drawn up a code of conduct so the Department had devised a basic one.

The Department collaborated with the Departments of Health, Safety and Security, Justice, Correctional Services and Social Development. Within the Department, Inclusive Education and Education Support Services were also involved. Psychological services were not available at all schools – only at those schools where the SGB could appoint one. Theoretically it was possible to refer children for counselling but practically this was often impossible, especially in rural areas.

The parents’ role could not be overemphasised. South African society was heterogenous and children had been moulded in different ways.  Making schools safer was not only about fences but about ‘the RDP of the soul’. Not all schools were violent but when one was, it was called a microcosm of society.

The Chair commented that learners were often bored and alone. During school hours, in townships and rural areas, one saw many uniformed children on the street. Why weren’t they in school? Ms Masilo added that the problem was worst after ten or eleven on Fridays in her community, and on pay day.

The Chair said that teachers were also undisciplined. Money had been put aside to improve safety at 585 schools but what about the remaining schools in South Africa? Also, how would schools implement policy if they did not have copies of the legislation? How would provinces implement the new safety policy if they did not implement existing policy? Who would implement search and seizure? If teachers were expected to do so, were they trained and willing? How were girls affected by violence? Most SGBs were under-functioning – they viewed the principal as their boss and saw fundraising as their role. They were simply not empowered, especially in rural areas. Was race-based violence rampant?

Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC) said that CCTV and such like would make school look like a prison? How would this affect a child’s mind?

Ms Lamoela asked how the teacher to learner ratio affected violence. Also, in the rural areas, there was no funding from the province for sports equipment. Children were glued to the television because they liked watching sports and arts and culture. During the holidays there would be many children on the streets, and this would be worsened by the strike, which must mean that many excursions would be cancelled. Couldn’t the Department implement a holiday programme, using arts, culture and sport, which the children enjoyed?

Ms Masilo asked who monitored teachers taking time off work? The Chair asked about the number of shebeens adjacent to schools – what could SGBs do about that? They should be able to talk to the local authority about that.

Ms Annelie Jordaan of the Governor’s Alliance wanted to raise an issue which she was not sure was completely relevant to the Committee’s oversight function. The Child Justice Bill did not allow for Schools of Industry so children affected would no longer fall under the Department of Education. School of Industry SGBs were different to others and the schools were neglected. Would they also be part of the 585 schools affected? The Child Care Act must affect these children. What would become of former schools of industry and where would the children in them go?

Mr Tolo agreed that nobody seemed to be taking care of such schools. The committee had visited two in Heidelberg. Children were referred there by the Departments of Justice and Correctional Services. The Department of Education was responsible for their education but the schools themselves were otherwise neglected as if the Department of Education met all of their needs.

Mr Matthews said that these schools were investigated during Minister Bhengu’s era, along with learners with special education needs. He agreed that only their education needs were provided for. Another problem was that a court in one province without a school of industry might refer a child to a school of industry in another province, but funds would not follow. Perhaps the inclusive education strategy was meant to take up the matter of these children; he would take up the matter with the Director-General.

Responding to the comments about shebeens near schools, Mr Matthews again referred to the ‘RDP of the soul’. The Department should not only control the schools up to their perimeter but unfortunately values did not seem to transfer. Not only teachers gambled and drank. Children patronised liquor outlets, especially in Pretoria. He did not have a magic wand for that. South Africa needed social re-engineering.

The Chair said that circuit managers should monitor whether teachers were at school but did not.

Mr Matthews agreed. School safety infrastructure making a school look like a prison was one of the unintended consequences of policy. Mr Matthews related an anecdote about a passer-by examining the palisade fencing at Mountview Secondary and declaring that he would come and fetch it for his house when the security officers left. Each corner of the school grounds belonged to a different gang. He did not know what to do about the unintended consequence – perhaps paint the fence green, he said jokingly.

He said high teacher to learner ratios could increase violence but a Department audit had recently uncovered a different aspect – a space issue. The teacher to learner ratio might be low, but there were insufficient classrooms so the first teacher to arrive used the space with his or class and the second teacher abandoned his or her class.

Regarding arts and culture and sport, he said that prioritising libraries and laboratories etc meant that there was too money left over for this. The Department of Sports and Recreation should take up this matter because it was not happening in partnership with local government. On the other hand, there were schools with swimming pools which had not been maintained and had become unuseable. Perhaps sport should not be an extramural subject but part of the school day. He agreed that it was very unfortunate that the strike had led to excursions and activities for the holidays being cancelled.

He commented that race-based violence did occur but was on the decline. On the budget for complete rollout of the safety programme, the difficulty was that provincial treasury funds tended to be used for expenses other than education. Possibly the funding could be from the conditional grant fund, or earmarked. It was highly likely that funds would be spent on school safety because the issue was foremost in the public eye.

The Chair and Ms Masilo asked for Mr Matthew’s comments on the Human Rights Commission (HRC) report into education.

Ms Lamoela asked whether many parents had complained to the Department about crime and violence in school over the last few months.

Mr Matthews said that responses to the HRC, Human Sciences Research Council, UNICEF and other reports were being incorporated into one document. Many parents wrote to the Department and the Minister had asked her staff to investigate and report personally to her.

The Chair asked the SGB bodies if they would like to make any final comments or ask questions.

Ms Callaghan asked whether SGBs generally knew their functions. It was problematic that SASA was in its eighth edition because that made it difficult for districts to keep abreast. SGBs should be made aware that the organisations like the GA and the GBF could train SGBs and that SGBs had a duty to function. Would the Committee like their comments on quality assurance on a regular basis?

Mr Tolo said that the Committee would ask them for comment on occasions but this should not prevent them from approaching the Committee themselves. SASA was last amended in 2005 with the purpose of making it simpler.

Mr T Setona (ANC) said that the culture of mass participation was strong in communities but that the state was weakening it.

The Chair said that mass participation was a positive force but this did not negate the need to implement policy.


Meeting adjourned.



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