Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department has closed 14 Manenberg schools until the weekend because of gang violence in the area.
The department’s hand was forced when 300 teachers reported to the department’s metro central district office on Wednesday instead of to their schools.
Several people have lost their lives in Manenberg in recent weeks, including a school caretaker who was shot while on duty, in the ongoing conflict between the Americans and Hard Livings gangs, and others have been injured. Teachers said the department needed an insight into how fed up they were.
Responding, Education MEC Donald Grant said the management and control of the underlying problems of gangsterism and violence in the Manenberg area went well beyond the capacity of an education department to correct.
“Since the outbreak of gang violence in Manenberg, the Western Cape Education Department has directed a great deal of resources and support to the area,” he said. “Our officials and educators are not law enforcers. Law enforcement is the responsibility of the police.”
He added: “The department has decided, following a discussion with the educators, to close the schools in Manenberg for the next two days as a result of the threat to their safety.”
Pupils and teachers’ safety remained a primary concern, along with the longer term loss of teaching and learning time.
Jonavan Rustin, provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, said teachers spoke of how gang violence had affected teaching and learning.
Liezl Benjamin, a teacher at Downeville Primary School, said educators felt their human rights were being violated. “I feel that the department should have an insight into how fed up the educators are, and all we wanted today was for the officials to guarantee our safety. It is time that someone does something.
“While I was on my way to school on Wednesday there was a shootout between the flats, and I just had to drive past quickly.
“The teachers feel that they don’t want to come to Manenberg and work in unsafe conditions.”