Pretoria - A crime hotline for Gauteng pupils is to be launched soon to address psycho-social issues, among them bullying, which affect normal teaching and learning in schools.
Education MEC Phanyaza Lesufi said the plan was to create a cohort of young crime reporters in the schooling system, who would report incidents of criminality and intimidation as soon as they happened.
For this he had roped in cellphone networks to set up a dedicated line.
“I’m trying to establish an emergency Digit 9 line, so that whenever they need to, they dial 9 and get straight to us,” Lesufi told the Pretoria News.
“Bullying is a serious problem, it keeps me awake at night.”
That parents could send their children to school and not see them come home because they had been killed or injured was a very painful aspect of bullying, he said.
“For now, we are investing in advocacy so that, among other issues, bullying among pupils is addressed,” he said.
Lesufi was speaking on Wednesday after visiting Central Secondary School in Soshanguve, which was the scene of a violent fight and fatal stabbing on Monday and which left a Grade 11 boy dead and another in hospital with stab wounds. Two boys had argued and fought when one drew a knife and stabbed the other in the chest. Another boy tried to intervene and was stabbed in the back.
A 16-year-old boy was later arrested by the police.
The dead boy is 17-year-old Thapelo Selala.
The school held a memorial service in honour of Selala on Thursday. It was attended by provincial Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane.
The MEC had earlier taken a team of police officers to conduct a raid at the school in an effort to intensify her department’s school safety programme.
She also paid a visit to the families of Selala and the injured boy.
The 16-year-old suspect, who is being held in a place of safety, was due to appear in court on Thursday on charges of murder and attempted murder.
Bullying and intimidation were cited as the reasons for the stabbing. Some close to the matter said the suspect had been pushed to the edge.
South African schools have been rocked by violence and bullying, with various studies identifying internal and external influences as perpetuators of this.
Direct and indirect bullying have been on the rise, and they have included physical contact, verbal abuse, persistent teasing and tormenting, humiliation, abusive comments and sarcasm.
Indirect abuse involves subtle social manipulation, such as gossip, threats, spreading rumours and exclusion from a group.
All of these tend to be hostile and when repeated over time, involve a power differential.
Bullying has been found to occur in all schools regardless of level, school size, setting, racial composition, or whether a school is in a wealthy, middle class or poor area.
Lesufi said the Digit 9 hotline would be launched in October, and it would work alongside other interventions established by the department to deal with psycho-social issues.
Medical Wednesdays are already in place, at which a mobile clinic visits schools in clusters in their communities, and where discussions are held to identify problems.
In these sessions, pupils are offered counselling and referred to hospitals, clinics and other centres at which assistance for their needs is identified.
The department’s spokesperson, Phumla Sekhonyane, said school safety was a high priority, and it was meant to ensure effective learning and teaching.
Schools were linked to police stations, and rapid-response teams, including school patrollers, kept an eye out for any acts which could cause disruptions, she said.
“We also have partnerships with law enforcement agencies like the metro cops and police services, who accompany us on random searches for drugs and weapons, to make sure we pick problems up before they turn into a crisis,” Sekhonyane said.