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Spotlight on school safety: Union calls for community to protect teachers and learners

File picture: Pexels

File picture: Pexels

Published May 20, 2022

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The issue of safety at schools has been thrust into the spotlight following recent reports of hijackings, shootings and robberies at schools across Durban.

In the most recent incident, a high school teacher was wounded during a robbery at Sea Cow Lake Secondary School. Muzi Professor Zulu had been on his way back from invigilating a class of matriculants and was accosted by armed men.

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According to reports, Zulu was shot, and the men managed to grab another staffer's handbag and personal belongings before fleeing. They were later arrested.

In another incident, learners from the Durban Child & Youth Centre were traumatised after their school bus was hijacked.

Director, Mandy Goble, said their driver had been parked outside a Chesterville school when a man got into the vehicle. His armed accomplice got into vehicle at the driver's side. A social worker who accompanied the driver, was able to contact the centre and alerted management.

Goble said while the hijackers eventually dumped the children and staff physically unharmed on the side of the road, the emotional trauma runs deep.

"Our social worker was on hand with our child care team to provide the children and staff with trauma counselling after the Umbilo SAPS kindly escorted our other driver into the area to pick up the abandoned children and staff. Finding words to express our feelings after this heinous act is difficult," she said.

Goble said this was not the first time their vehicle was hijacked.

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"Having had our previous vehicle stolen from out of the locked up garage on our property just 19 months ago and experiencing the inconvenience of struggling to get 74 children to and from the 23 schools they attend, whilst working tirelessly to secure funds to cover the difference between the insurance pay-out and the cost of a new vehicle, has left us discouraged beyond words.

“We know that incidents such as these have become a common occurrence. The fact that our experience has happened during South Africa’s observance of Child Protection Month makes it even more compelling for us to refuse to accept the lawlessness that has gripped our country," she said.

Earlier this month, off duty police officer Michael Jameson, was shot while trying to avert a hijacking outside another Durban school.

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"Safety in schools remains a problem. Hence, it is easy for criminals to just get into schools and kill our teachers," said South African Democratic Teachers Union provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza.

She said the union continues to call on every member of the society to protect teachers, learners and education workers.

"Our schools are no longer safe as teachers do not know whether they will be going back to their families every day they go to school. This has serious implications for quality teaching and learning," she added.

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Spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education in KZN, Sihle Mlotshwa, said the budget does not allow for security guards in the more than 6000 schools across the province.

"But our experience is that having security guards in schools is not a permanent solutions as we have incidents where the very security guards are killed by evil-doers.

“We always ask for community members to work with us in ensuring that schools are kept as safe learning spaces. School safety is everyone’s responsibility," he said.

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