Premier Helen Zille
Premier Helen Zille

Manenberg schools close because of violence

By Michelle Jones Time of article published Aug 15, 2013

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Michelle Jones

Education Writer

SCHOOLS in Manenberg are to be closed today and tomorrow as educators discuss safety issues with provincial government officials.

This was announced to principals and teachers of schools in Manenberg who had earlier protested outside the Western Cape Education Department’s metro central district offices in Maitland.

Premier Helen Zille yesterday called on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to hold an urgent meeting on gang violence and to deploy the SA National Defence Force in hot spot areas, specifically because of schooling problems in Manenberg.

The principals and teachers were later called to the offices to discuss their grievance with department officials.

They made emotional pleas for increased safety support and an emergency plan from the department.

There are 11 primary and three secondary schools in the area.

Lily Ford, deputy principal of Downeville Primary, said she could not continue to work when her life was in danger.

“I have two children. I have to kiss them in the morning because I am not sure I will arrive home safely.

“I don’t have the answers but I know the department has to protect us.”

Rizaan Hendricks, a teacher at Manenberg High, said he had grown up and gone to school in the area.

“I am passionate about

Manenberg. This is my home town. We want to see if we can make a difference.”

He said gunshots could be heard every night.

“You have to think how does this affect our children. I can see it affects them psychologically.”

A teacher at Silverstream Secondary, Yolanda Daniels, said she had recently been teaching a class about their rights when the pupils ran to the window to watch as two men, one brandishing a gun, raced across the school grounds.

“I’m empowering learners to stand on their rights but I can’t stand on my own right to safety. I don’t want empathy. I want action.

“If the department can’t do anything, then go further, put pressure on the politicians.”

Jonavon Rustin, provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, said Manenberg educators and department officials had to sit together to put a plan in place.

John Lyners, a deputy director-general in the Western Cape Education Department, made the announcement that schools would be closed, to applause and cheers.

“We shall ask for a small committee ... so that committee can talk to the Western Cape government.”

He made a promise that a plan would be agreed on and reported back by the weekend.

“The department must come forward with a plan that will demonstrate how the safety of the learners and educators and the general community of Manenberg is guaranteed, or ensured.”

Education MEC Donald Grant released a media statement after the meeting which said safety at Manenberg schools had been an ongoing challenge.

“A meeting has also been arranged for (today) between a representative group of these educators and the government of the Western Cape.

“Our learners’ and educators’ safety remains our primary concern, along with the longer term loss of teaching and learning time.

“These will be addressed (today).”

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