Safety & Security in Schools: briefing by DBE and SAPS, with Minister of Basic Education

Basic Education

10 September 2019
Chairperson: Ms T Joemat-Pettersson (ANC) and Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Safety in Schools: DBE & SAPS briefing; Feedback on KZN Oversight Visit

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education and Portfolio Committee on Police met jointly to receive a briefing from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) on safety and security in schools. The Minister of Basic Education was present.

The Minister said school violence was a matter of huge concern to the education system, as it had a negative impact on the work of the Department. She added that bullying remains a major challenge, as it most often occurred in the classroom, generally in the absence of a teacher.

The Department said the National School Safety Framework remained its primary strategic response to school violence. The framework was a comprehensive approach that coordinated and consolidated all school safety interventions in the sector.

The legislative and policy environment was comprehensive and rights based. Legislation banned corporal punishment, criminalised sexual abuse and exploitation of children, limited alcohol misuse and restricted firearms. There was a high-level commitment to address school violence and bullying. School safety is now one of six (6) apex priorities for the 6th Administration. Two protocols were introduced namely: Management of sexual abuse and harassment and Management of Corporal Punishment in 2018; Collective Agreement (3 of 2018) simplifies and consolidates prosecution of teachers accused of sexually abusing learners. Partnerships with the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Development ensure improved vetting of teachers and other staff and the establishment of National School Safety Steering Committee with related government departments and social partners to better coordinate safety interventions. In collaboration the Department has also embarked on interventions aimed at addressing hotspots for most at risk schools. Some of the measures include improving the built environment, such as considering learner safety when planning school infrastructure, as well as closure of taverns and liquor outlets in close proximity to schools, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, SAPS and South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The measures also include search and seizures in partnership with SAPS and the provision of security guards to schools at risk. A variety of activities involving a whole range of stakeholders will be undertaken to ensure each district has a District Based Support Team in place. School Safety Committees will be established as subcommittees of SGBs and these will link closely to Community Policing Forums and local police stations. Learner Support Agents (LSAs) will be provided to all hotspot schools together with the provision of counselling services to victims (and perpetrators) of violence and abuse.

SAPS expressed its commitment to sustained action to deal with the persistent challenge of violence at schools until it is resolved. SAPS commented that violence in schools was a societal problem which requires all stakeholders to play their part to create a safe learning and teaching environment. This necessitated a collaborative approach and hence the Review of the Collaborative Protocol was in consultation with the following stakeholders: Department of Higher Education; Department of Social Development; Department of Justice; Department of Health; Department of Sports/Arts and Culture; Department of Transport; Public Works; Metro Police; South African Local Government Association (SALGA); Community Police Forums; and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). SAPS was committed to dealing with the persistent challenge of violence at schools until it is resolved. There were still challenges with the implementation of the School Safety Programme. Some of the challenges were as follows: School Safety Committees were not established at all schools; not all School Safety Committees were functional; demarcation of municipal boundaries; shortage of resources (SAPS personnel); and that School Safety is not the sole responsibility of the appointed SAPS member (SAPS appointed members have other crime prevention responsibilities outside of the school safety programmes).

Members said it was quite encouraging to hear about all the work that was being done by both DBE and SAPS. They noted that the statistics reaffirmed the fact that there is a major correlation between inequality and violence in schools. Addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment within communities would go a long way in bringing incidents of violence, particularly in schools, down.  Challenges with fencing allows criminals access to schools, and affords learners the opportunity to bring weapons onto the school ground. Psychosocial services should be brought on board in schools. They noted that there had to be continual discussions about how to get school safety right. To this end, they indicated that they will be monitoring this matter closely and will work with all stakeholders to ensure that school violence is eventually eradicated.
 

Meeting report

Co-Chair Joemat-Pettersson welcomed everyone to the briefing by the Department of Education (DBE) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) on safety and security in schools. She invited presentations from the delegations.

Remarks by Minister
Ms Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, in opening, said violence in schools was of huge concern to the Department as it had a negative impact on educational outcomes. Bullying is the most common form of violence in schools and often occurs between learners. School violence most often occurs on school premises, but it also takes place on the way to and from schools. Bullying is also increasingly taking place online and with the use of mobile devices. She pointed out that schools in communities with high crime and violence have higher rates of school violence, and the classroom is the place where most violence occurs. Although it is banned, corporal punishment remains one of the most common forms of violence in SA schools. The statistics for bullying are high across schools, although slightly lower in quintile 4 and 5 schools.

Briefing by Department of Basic Education (DBE)
Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director-General, DBE, took the joint committee through a presentation on safety and security in schools. The trend of school violence has been decreasing over the last few years. In 2013 the figure was reported at 14.9% and in 2011 Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) reported it had gone down to 11.1%.

Sexual violence was common and perpetrated by both learners and teachers. According to the 2016 Optimus Study: Sexual Victimisation of Children in South Africa, one in three (35.4%) young people had experienced some form of sexual abuse before the age of 17. Boys experience sexual abuse at a slightly higher rate (36.8%) than girls (33.9%), although boys are much less likely to report abuse to the police. Sexual abuse is closely associated with mental health symptoms – those who were sexually abused were twice as likely to report anxiety and depression and three times as likely to have PTSD symptoms. The study called for the formulation of a much-needed child protection protocol for the management of sexual offences for both state and NGOs (non-governmental organisations). Some of the interventions made by the DBE are specific interventions for most at risk schools, improving the built environment. Learner safety needed to be taken into account when planning school infrastructure like fences, metal detectors, burglar proofing, alarms, and bullet proofing.

The National School Safety Framework remained the Department’s primary strategic response to school violence. The framework is a comprehensive approach that coordinates and consolidates all school safety interventions in the sector. It is based on a social ecological systems model, which locates the school within its broader community; it relies on collaboration and partnership. Partnerships with the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Development ensure improved vetting of teachers and other staff and the establishment of National School Safety Steering Committee with related government departments and social partners to better coordinate safety interventions. In collaboration, the Department has also embarked on interventions aimed at addressing hotspots for most at risk schools. Some of the measures include improving the built environment, such as considering learner safety when planning school infrastructure, as well as closure of taverns and liquor outlets in close proximity to schools, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, SAPS and South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The measures also include search and seizures in partnership with SAPS and the provision of security guards to schools at risk.

A variety of activities involving a whole range of stakeholders will be undertaken to ensure each district has a District Based Support Team in place. School Safety Committees must be established as subcommittees of school governing bodies (SGBs) and these must link closely to Community Policing Forums and local police stations. Learner Support Agents (LSAs) will be provided to all hotspot schools together with the provision of counselling services to victims (and perpetrators) of violence and abuse.

Implementation and law enforcement
Dr Whittle pointed out that South Africa’s legislative and policy environment is comprehensive and rights based. Legislation bans corporal punishment, criminalises sexual abuse and exploitation of children, limits alcohol misuse and restricts firearms. In addition, SA has clear political leadership and high-level commitment to address school violence and bullying. School safety is now one of six (6) apex priorities for the sixth administration. Two protocols were introduced namely: Management of sexual abuse and harassment and Management of Corporal Punishment in 2018. Also, the Collective Agreement (3 of 2018) simplifies and consolidates prosecution of teachers accused of sexually abusing learners. Evidence based prevention and response interventions (scientifically evaluated, are found to be effective, are based on the best available research and not personal belief or anecdote) are critical and should be both specific and context appropriate to ensure their effectiveness.

In conclusion, there is no silver bullet to solve the scourge of school violence. Collaboration and partnerships are critical and should involve the wider community, but especially learners; provide life skills to enable children to speak up and seek support; and give priority to those children who are most at risk (race, ethnicity, disability, gender and sexual orientation). DBE recommended that the joint committee periodically discuss progress on the implementation of Safety in Schools programmes and provide inputs and guidance.

Briefing by South African Police Service (SAPS)
Lt Gen SJ Jephta, Acting Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, SAPS, briefed the joint committee on the progress of the Collaborative Protocol and the Implementation of the School Safety Programmes. The Implementation Protocol was developed in terms of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act of 2005, between DBE and SAPS, with the prevention of crime and violence in all schools as the overarching objective. The partnership was meant to promote safer schools and prevent the involvement of young people in crime. The aims of the Protocol were as follows:
-To render a school-based crime prevention service that is preventative and proactive and characterised by the development and implementation of interventions that deter potential offenders and empower potential victims and past victims.
-To encourage an integrated and multidisciplinary approach towards crime prevention and development and to mobilise relevant stakeholders to participate in a broad network of services to protect children and transform all schools into safe, caring and child friendly institutions.
- To use a community based and inclusive approach to address the needs of school communities through effective school-based crime prevention and policing services.
- To promote proactive interventions that enrich early childhood development and to promote resilience against offending behaviour at the earliest possible opportunity
- To assist in building capacity for the school community, especially learners, to prevent and manage school safety issues, by promoting participation in the development, implementation, sustaining and evaluation of school safety programmes.
-To promote the image of the SAPS and build positive relationships between schools, police stations, children, school communities and the police.
-To promote the use of crime prevention, in order to ensure school safety and to build understanding, regarding the importance of prevention and the shared responsibility that everyone (officials from departments, individuals and organisations) has for the prevention of crime.

SAPS Guidelines: School-based crime prevention
The School Based Crime Prevention Guideline was developed by the SAPS in 2009 and was intended to be a resource for SAPS members working with youth crime prevention and school safety. The guideline is aimed at providing a framework, within which the SAPS should work in support of school safety programmes. Communities and environments are not identical, therefore, within the framework provided by this guideline, the SAPS at provincial and local level must adapt their work to the local needs.

Maintenance of the School Safety Programmes
Lt Gen Jephta expressed SAPS’ commitment to sustained action to deal with the persistent challenge of violence at schools until it is resolved. On the maintenance of School Safety Programme in each province, the total number from 2016 to date is 25 749. However, there were still challenges being experienced with its implementation. Some of the challenges were as follows: School Safety Committees were not established at all schools; not all School Safety Committees were functional; demarcation of municipal boundaries; shortage of resources (SAPS personnel); and that School Safety is not the sole responsibility of the appointed SAPS member (SAPS appointed members have other crime prevention responsibilities outside of the school safety programmes).

Violence in schools is a societal problem which requires all stakeholders to play their part to create a safe learning and teaching environment. This necessitates a collaborative approach and hence the Review of the Collaborative Protocol was in consultation with the following stakeholders: Department of Higher Education; Department of Social Development; Department of Justice; Department of Health; Department of Sports/Arts and Culture; Department of Transport; Public Works; Metro Police; South African Local Government Association (SALGA); Community Police Forums; and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA).

Discussion
Mr O Terblanche (DA) said it was quite encouraging to hear about all the work that was being done by both DBE and SAPS. He asked if SAPS had the capacity to gather intelligence relating to school violence. The fact that schools outnumber police stations was a challenge which could only be addressed through the implementation of sector policing. Running campaigns on safety and security should be part of the interventions to curb violence in schools.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) appreciated the spirited efforts by both SAPS and DPE as highlighted in their presentations. She emphasised the need for collaborative efforts to deal with the scourge of violence within communities. A collaborated social media campaign was required to raise awareness, educate and inspire young people.

Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) asked if the bullying statistics in schools could be disaggregated to highlight race-related attacks. Were home visits being carried out consistently when learners are seen to be absent from school? Who carries out these visits and were they helping the situation? She wanted to know if DBE, together with the Department of Social Development, had any plans to engage social workers that are currently out of employment, given the dire need for their services. She pointed out that schools, particularly in townships, were under-resourced such that most of them go without coaches to take learners through extra-mural activities as per the curriculum. Faith-based organisations had to be given a chance to play a pivotal role in addressing some of the identified social ills.

Ms N Mashabela (EFF) noted that the statistics for bullying and violence in schools are staggering. She wanted to know whether learners that are victims of such incidents were receiving the much needed assistance from professionals and experts.

Mr T Malatji (ANC) appreciated the presentations and noted that the statistics reaffirmed the fact that there is a major correlation between inequality and violence in schools. Addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment within communities would go a long way in bringing incidents of violence, particularly in schools, down.  

Mr W Mafanya (EFF) agreed with Mr Malatji and added that the main contributor to the staggering numbers as presented are the socio-economic conditions within communities, particularly in townships. These socio-economic challenges cascade down to schools as learners replicate what they witness within their communities. The high rate of unemployment also has a direct bearing as learners living under miserable home conditions were expected not to perform well at school. He emphasised the need for political will to address these problems. There had to be meaningful collaborative efforts across the board. It could not be business as usual under these circumstances.

Ms N Tarabella- Marchesi (DA) wanted to know whether the police was recording any success in closing down shebeens and taverns close to schools. Was there a policy that guides teachers in dealing with misbehaviour without resorting to corporal punishment? What was the ratio of police to communities that would enable effective policing? Was the current police complement well-equipped to deal with violence in schools?

Ms C King (DA) said challenges with fencing allows criminals access to schools, and affords learners the opportunity to bring weapons onto the school ground. Psychosocial services should be brought on board in schools. Has SAPS considered rolling out training programmes to communities involved in school safety initiatives to equip them with requisite skills for effective community safety and policing?

Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) said schools ought to be provided with a pool of specialised therapists to provide support to learners. Having taverns, adult sex shops and gambling facilities close to schools was problematic. Zoning should be implemented effectively to ensure such businesses are not located close to schools. Also, the use of cell phones during school hours should be looked into as a lot of pornographic material was being circulated amongst learners.

Ms N Shabalala (ANC) said the initiatives as presented were a step in the right direction. The challenge of violence in schools should involve communities in their entirety; it should not only be left to SAPS and DBE. She identified the need to evaluate cases of best practice and replicate them in highly-affected areas.

Minister Motshekga replied that the Department had taken note of all inputs from Members. She agreed that school infrastructure is a challenge but reminded Members that in some instances it is a question of redressing the legacy of the past. She reiterated the fact that community involvement was critical especially where projects were undertaken in schools, as it meant there were always adults assisting with monitoring. Parents needed to play their part and do away with the tendency of outsourcing the responsibility of raising children to teachers. Parents must be encouraged to take their responsibilities seriously. The main problem was learner on learner violence, which is taking place inside the classroom, so the issue of security guards and the police was welcome, but the key challenge is what learners do to each other. Search and seizures in partnership with the SAPS and the provision of security guards to schools at risk was also important– the high labour cost is justified when compared to losses linked to vandalism.

Minister Motshekga said the Department would also implement specific programmes for boys, without neglecting the efforts to address the continued vulnerability of girls; and improve access to sports, arts and culture and other extra mural activities. She agreed that the closure of taverns and liquor outlets in close proximity to schools was critical. While the fight against poverty is ongoing, dealing with violence is a priority for the here and now. The school violence hotspots were not necessarily in poor areas but in crime-ridden communities. She reiterated that collaborative efforts would be critical as some of the challenges are beyond the Department’s control. Unless there is an integrated approach, the Department would be fighting a losing battle.

Lt Gen Jephta replied that the police carries out both announced and unannounced visits in schools on a regular basis. SAPS makes use of intelligence, of which some of it is gathered through unconventional means which could not be shared in a public forum. The police also make use of information from whistle-blowers and informants. SAPS has no direct involvement in the issuance of liquor licenses; this was Liquor Board prerogative. However, as part of law enforcement efforts, the clamping down of illegal liquor outlets such as sheebens is carried out on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there is currently no integrated spatial development programme that SAPS is directly a part of. The Department of Community Safety was directly involved in the training of community patrollers. 1300 schools had been identified in hotspot areas and this database will be shared with the joint committee. On the police to schools ratio, SAPS makes use of a global resource management framework called a ‘station profile’. The profile is updated monthly as makes use of population as well as geographic information. School-based crime prevention efforts will be intensified and the collaborative agreement with DBE would be revised in order to make it more effective.

Co-chair Mbinqo-Gigaba said there had to be continual discussions about how to get school safety right. The fencing of school grounds had to be prioritised to protect learners. It was encouraging that the figures were on the decline. Members will be monitoring this closely and also work with all stakeholders to ensure that it goes down further in an attempt to ultimately eradicate it.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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