Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng provincial government has promised to stamp out crime and violence at schools, saying school premises had become a battleground.

Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, said Tuesday: "Gauteng schools have become terrains prone to crime and violent incidents, this is a threat to the successful achievement of educational goals.

"Many schools are grappling with increasing disciplinary issues, while at the same time society is struggling to understand the complex factors that are creating fresh generations of these unruly behaviour," she said ahead of a crucial summit called to address the issues plaguing Gauteng schools.

Amid recent violent incidents in Gauteng schools, questions have been raised as to whether parents, teachers and the community were losing the battle in raising disciplined children.

The Gauteng government has consulted with a wide range of stakeholders to address the ongoing instability and agreed to hold a school safety summit under the theme "Safer schools to support learning and teaching."

According to the provincial gpvernment, at all forums stakeholders have agreed that such an intervention is long overdue and pledged their support for a coordinated initiative to rescue the education system.

The summit which will be held at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre on Wednesday is expected to address topics such as improving classroom teaching and learner performance, how to bring back a climate of discipline, safety and social cohesion in schools, ways of improving school governance and management, and ensuring a political climate that fosters a spirit of learning and teaching.

"These problems persist despite the South African Police Service, the Gauteng Department of Education and Department of Community Safety having several Safer Schools initiatives in operation," Nkosi-Malobane said.

Research has shown that violence in schools, such as bullying, physical violence and sexual abuse, often have negative effects on mental health, physical health, sense of well-being, sense of social isolation, depression, frustration and academic achievement.

It also indicated that 57% of South African students have been bullied at some time during their high school careers.

"Our schools used to be institutions of academic excellencies and one of the safest places for learners and teachers. However, in recent times our schooling environment has become a haven for learners to commit criminal elements."

Nkosi-Malobane said the recent incidents of bullying, gangsterism and serious violent crime such as murder were nerve-wrecking and must not be allowed to prevail.

"These problems make learners and educators feeling unsafe and negatively affect the development of learners as well as teachers doing their jobs effectively and efficiently. I call upon the teachers, the members of the community and the law enforcement agencies to rid learners of this inhumane behaviour."

"I have since instructed the police to continue conducting random unannounced visit to schools as a matter of urgency to ensure the safety of learners. It also critically important that schools management should participate in Community Police Forums to assist in finding cohesive solutions to the crime challenges faced by our respective schools," Nkosi-Malobane added.

Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi has also expressed shock at the recent violation of the school’s code of conduct and emphasised the need for creating a conducive learning environment in schools. 

"This unwarranted and unruly behaviour by our learners is shocking and is an extreme violation of a school’s code of conduct which learners are expected to adhere to. These shocking school violent incidents can never be condoned and must be condemned with contempt.

"The creation of a safe and conducive learning environment has reached critical point and is not negotiable. Our learners must be given an opportunity to develop and ultimately reach their full potential without any hindrance,"Lesufi added.

The summit will be attended by about 3,000 stakeholders including the Gauteng premier, the MECs for community safety and education, the deputy minister of basic education, school principals, school governing body members, organised labour, representative council of learners members and student movements.

African News Agency (ANA)