Cape Town - Pupils at Manenberg’s Rio Grande Primary know the drill every time they hear gunshots – lie flat on the ground or run to the nearest classroom.
This has become a routine safety precaution, and, although the gang violence has spread across the area, five schools – Red River Primary, Sonderend Primary, Edenvale Primary, Rio Grande Primary and Silverstream Secondary – were worst affected.
The Western Cape Education Department was granted an order of the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday overturning an interim order on Friday that compelled the department to increase security at the five schools.
On Wednesday, affected principals told the Cape Times of damaged fences, broken windows and poor access control, giving gangs easy access to school grounds.
Rio Grande Primary principal Brenda Manuel said: “All my kids know they need to lie flat on the ground when a gunshot goes off.”
Manuel said that on February 6 police chased a suspected gangster who had jumped over the fence and ran between pupils.
“On the day of the shooting, we had children crying while running to their classrooms. The whole school was packed with police officers and some of our kids ran away because they were scared,” she said.
She said visible patrols by police had brought some “calm” to the area. “I have been at this school for 38 years. Never has the gang problem reached such levels. The school is right next to a street where shootings are rife. We need all the help we can get from police and the department,” she said.
Manuel would not be drawn on the court order, as she was not at the hearing.
At Red River Primary, the school’s fence and fire-safety equipment had been destroyed.
“We had a learner here on Tuesday who had brought a gun to school. We saw the learner playing with the gun after school as he walked home. We cannot have learners playing with a gun. This is a grave concern,” acting principal Vern Hartog said.
She said it was planned to upgrade the school over two years. “We’re already busy with plans to do upgrades.
“Gangsters have used the school as their shooting range. We have no proper fence and constantly need to fix broken pipes or paint over gang graffiti. Our kids get caught up in the violence almost daily. I pray none will get hurt,” she said.
Manenberg community policing chairman Kadar Jacobs said violence affected not only schools.
“It is a situation we are all faced with. School has been hit the hardest, but the violence is on the streets, and that is where the fight should be,” he said.
Police spokesman Tembinkosi Kinana said they would continue with random searches in the area.