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Henri du Plessis
EMOTIONAL, outraged parents gathered at the gates of Kasselsvlei High in Bellville South today to vent their anger at the circumstances which led to the killing of yet another schoolboy.
The victim, Allan Manuel of Kraaifontein, was described as a soft-spoken, quiet boy. He was stabbed to death by a fellow pupil outside the school yesterday afternoon.
His attacker handed himself over to police later in the day.
But the parents and community members who gathered at the gates of the school today believed the incident could have been prevented.
The school was described as a normally good school where such things were simply not expected.
The authorities were described as lackadaisical, unprepared and incapable.
And, as more people joined the crowd in the street outside the school, the emotions and shrill voices raised ever higher in the ice-cold wind.
“I have waited outside this school for my child every day and I have never seen a teacher or a security man at the gates to monitor the children,” one parent said.
“This has nothing to do with gangs, this is about schoolboys fighting. This is something the teachers should have taken care of at the start and we would not have had a dead child on our hands,” said another.
“This sort of thing was rare here. Kasselsvlei has always been a good school. That is why parents from areas further away send their children here,” another parent said.
“The security people sit on their backsides and do nothing. They just cost money, that is all.”
One man was adamant the government should be held responsible: “It is the government who should take responsibility for everything that has gone wrong in schools. Teachers are not allowed to use corporal punishment anymore, they are not allowed to act and religion has been taken away from schools.
“This is the result. There is no discipline... now a child is dead. The teachers have to run away from children.”
“When we were at school here, we were beaten if we were naughty or if we fought,” said resident and parent Amelda Campher.
“Just last week, boys stopped a girl in the street around here, stabbed her in the head and took her phone. That would never have happened in our time here.”
Parents also expressed their concern at the school’s possible loss of status.
“Schools rugby teams from overseas used to come here to play against Kasselsvlei,” said one parent.
“With this sort of thing happening, they won’t come back. Why should they?”
As emotions rose, the crowd drifted from the street towards the school’s main gate.
Former Springbok rugby coach Peter de Villiers arrived at the school in a sponsored car. No reasons for his visit were offered.
“What’s he going to do? Teach the boys to play rugby?” a parent asked cynically.
When the pitch of their voices proved to be a disturbance for proceedings taking place inside the school, a delegation led by headmaster Ronald Bantam came out.
Countering their accusations, Bantam pointed out that the incident happened outside the school premises, after the school had closed for the day.
“I have personally stood at gates to monitor the children. They don’t do such things when you are there,” he said.
“They break the vibracrete wall to take a shortcut, and every now and again we have to replace the panels.
“And you very well know that these days the teachers are the ones who have to be at their best behaviour, while the pupils do as they please. If one of us raises a hand to a child, he gets into trouble. You, the parents, are the first to run and lay charges against us or sue us for damages. Just last week, we had a pupil who hit a teacher,” he said.
“The children do not have respect for older people. Teachers cannot apply discipline. But the fact is, the discipline starts at home.”
Bantam also said he was working with the police and with the Safer Schools campaign.
“This incident has now put our school in the red zone as far as the dangerous schools ratings are concerned. This means we will now get more security. I am going to hear from the police what they plan to do.”
As he spoke, the parents’ emotions cooled.
Agreement was reached that parents would come to the school to walk with children and patrol to keep a look-out for thugs.