Durban - The Congress of South African Students has called for armed and sufficiently trained security guards to be deployed at schools around the province, as the Department of Education ponders a study to address security issues.
KwaZulu-Natal schools have become volatile in past years - particularly at rural schools and in the townships - where in one school a teacher was shot dead in front of her pupils, and where some pupils have stabbed others to death inside the school premises.
The Daily News reported on Monday that at a Hammarsdale school, Chief Luthayi High School, matrics had to write their final exams under police guard after some pupils had threatened to burn the school and teachers’ cars.
The local Community Police Forum was also part of the security detail.
In other incidents, in September this year, the Umlazi-based Vukuzakhe High School saw a Grade 11 pupil stabbed to death by a Grade 9 peer, allegedly over a girl, while last year a teacher and a pupil were killed at Luvisi Primary School in Nquthu, when a gunman fired at the teacher while he was teaching.
But university students - during the #FeesMustFall protests - have decried the presence of armed private security guards, describing them as violent.
On Sunday, the Department of Education, through it’s head, Dr Enoch Nzama, said it would be conducting a study to address security issues at schools, and the cost effectiveness of this.
The study would take between 6 to 12 months to complete.
It was highlighted as one of the resolutions that the department needed to improve upon during a three-day strategic planning programme held at the weekend.
But Cosas KZN secretary Siya Phakathi slammed the department for not involving pupils in the three-day commission.
“The problem with the department is that we give them issues as Cosas, and when they are supposed to come to us and ask for solutions, they don’t do that. We were never invited to that commission; if we had been invited we would have given them a clear direction on what was to be done,” he said.
Phakathi said the “clear direction” would see each school have three guards posted - one at the entrance, one roaming and one at the administration building - and would include armed guards sufficiently trained to handle firearms.
He said the firearms were to keep criminals away from the schools.
“We will not say they must guard with just a isagila (a knobkierie). The old people guard the schools. The department must have its own force who are able to use firearms. One thing is important for security guards is that the criminals will not target the school because they are afraid of guns.
“The security must be well trained to use guns; they must know when to use the guns and when not to use the gun, schools will be safer,” he said.
Tim Gordon, the head of the School Governing Body Foundation, said guns at schools as security should be a last or temporary resort.
He called on communities to take ownership of the schools and protect them.
“We have seen communities burn down schools to have their voices heard. The same sort of people could be involved in securing schools from theft.
“The issue of the safety of the people, such as gun violence spreading into the school premises, it is clearly a multi-faceted problem.
“The more the community believes in the school and believes the school provides a good service for the children, the more they will take it up as a measure of security. The community must see the school as a positive for the community,” said Gordon.
Asked if guns at schools were a solution, he said: “It is better to avoid it, but it is better to have that than have murder and arson and all sorts of things.”
Gordon said combining guns and children was a “dangerous mix”, and said it could only work as a temporary measure at volatile schools.
Phakathi said the department had to repair broken school fences, and said this breach allowed for external elements to infiltrate schools.