Learners in the Manneberg area walk to school. Safety at schools around the country remains a concern after at least 13 confirmed cases of kidnapping took place since the 8th of August 2018. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
Cape Town - The Human Rights Commission visited 20 schools across the Western Cape and said the safety of pupils was of grave concern.

Human rights commissioner Chris Nissen said it requested a meeting with MEC for Education Debbie Schafer about its concerns.

He said all children had a right to basic education.

“The right to basic education charter aims to provide a common, legally grounded planning, monitoring and advocacy framework that is child-centred and recognises the inter-connectedness of human rights.”

The provincial Education Department said last year 42 incidents of school violence were reported.

And since the beginning of the year, three pupil-on-pupil stabbings had been reported.

Nissen also visited San Souci High School in Newlands, where a video of a teacher smacking a pupil went viral.

“We went to visit the school as any form of violence is a concern to us, especially if learners do not feel safe at school, which is supposed to be a place of learning.

“Security at schools in disadvantaged areas was identified as a big concern. Because of the external environment outside the school, it gets affected by gangsterism, and this needs to be addressed. Also, teachers do not feel safe in classrooms because learners bring knives to schools.

“Another issue we want to speak to MEC Schafer about is overcrowding in classrooms. There are not enough teachers in schools,” he said.

Schafer’s spokesperson, Jessica Shelver, previously said with regard to security at schools: “There are access-control measures with searches, including metal detectors, at some schools. Unfortunately, we live in a society whereby gangsterism and abuse is high in some communities, and this kind of behaviour can affect learners, not only in terms of violence, but trauma as well, which also can affect their studies and future opportunities.”

Tony Ehrenreich, former Cosatu provincial secretary, said: “The safety of children at schools is the responsibility of the Western Cape Education Department.

“In poor areas, parents cannot pay for security guards at schools as they do in wealthy areas. The Education Department should not worry what is happening in society, but make schools safer for children. By saying this, they are shifting the blame and responsibility.

“Children should not be disadvantaged because they are poor.

“Also, the teachers at the schools are not feeling safe, because there is no security.”

@RusanaPhilander

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Cape Argus