Schools operation ‘working well’
and Michelle Jones
A POLICE helicopter circling and armed metro police patrolling the entrances and routes to schools greeted Manenberg pupils on their return to class yesterday.
A convoy of heavily armed police, flying squad and metro officers also did a stop-and-search operation in known crime hot spots. Several homes were raided as residents with toddlers watched in the streets.
The Cape Times saw three suspects arrested for possession of drugs, mainly dagga.
Manenberg High principle Thurston Brown said the increased police presence made staff and pupils feel much safer, but they were still concerned that it wouldn’t solve the larger problem of gang violence.
“I just hope it will be sustained to bring an end to the violence because its an abnormal environment for the children to attend school under constant police guard. We had 87 percent attendance compared to last week’s 53 percent,” he said.
The education department had closed all 14 Manenberg schools on Thursday and Friday after teachers, fed-up with gang violence, demanded it take action. The schools reopened yesterday after Premier Helen Zille announced that R6 million would be transferred from the Western Cape Education Department’s budget to the city for security at schools plagued by gang violence.
For the next two weeks, 71 metro police officers will patrol the schools, mostly in the mornings and afternoons.
At 7.30am yesterday, to the humming of the helicopter, parents hurried their teenagers off to school while others escorted younger pupils into school grounds.
A minimum of three officers were seen at the entrances at about seven schools closer to the hot spots, while vans monitored routes to neighbouring schools.
At Rio Grande Primary, parent Rushaan Daniels said she felt at ease knowing her children, aged five and eight, were back at school. “The children play outside when they are at home, so it’s difficult for the parents to watch them when the shooting starts. At least when they are at school we know where they are. We feel even safer that there are more police here, especially in the afternoons when the children walk home from school.”
Silverstream Secondary teacher Deon Jacobs said it was safer for the older pupils and staff if schools closed during volatile periods.
“Every morning I walk through the Flats to make sure our learners aren’t still roaming around. When the violence started our attendance rate dropped because parents were scared to send their children to school. Some (pupils) could be affiliated with gangs, and once someone is shot the (revenge) attacks could start in the schools, which puts us and the other children at risk,” he said.
Safety and Security MEC Dan Plato, who visited Sonderend Primary, said government officials would assess possible long-term resolutions after the two-week period.
Manenberg station commander Brigadier Andre van Dyk said the shootings had dropped sharply.
“It’s a joint operation that is working well so far,” he said.