Cape Town - Children should be kept at school and in after-school programmes for longer, not just in an effort to improve their education and life skills, but also as a way of keeping them away from crime.
A study at Harvard University has found that the hours from 3pm to 6pm are the peak time for juvenile crime and victimisation.
Participation in after school programmes gets children and youth off the streets, under supervision and prevents potentially risky behaviour.
In his recently announced safety plan for the Western Cape, Premier Alan Winde said one of his priorities would be “to ensure that 8000 of the children most vulnerable to violence - boys in particular - have access to programmes that they actually want to attend to keep them busy in the afternoons, where the lure of criminality has been proven to begin”.
Recent Department of Correctional Services statistics revealed that a significant number of children (persons under the age of 18) and juveniles (people between the ages of 18 and 20) were currently languishing in prison. Of those remanded detainees, nine were children, 799 were juveniles and 2405 were between 21 and 25 years. Of those sentenced, seven were children, 387 were juveniles and 2742 were aged 21-25.
Penny Parenzee, a researcher with the Justice and Violence Prevention programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said: “The value of interventions that prevent violence, such as providing additional academic support and life skills programmes, is that they have a positive effect beyond merely preventing violence.”
The Western Cape government introduced a set of interventions, referred to as game changers, directed at the most pressing challenges.
Parenzee said, “The After School Game Changer seeks to alter the life trajectories of people aged nine to 25 through a series of targeted interventions aimed at reducing the potential for risky and violent behaviours, and increasing children’s safety and life skills after school hours.”
Tania Colyn, head of Communications in the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport said the game-changer, now rebranded as the After School Programme Office (Aspo), is expanding its reach. She said: “The Aspo is the lead office on the two priorities championed by Department of Culture and (provincial) Sports
Minister Anroux Marais.
“Over the next five years, they will place 2000 youth in a first work youth service opportunity and track 8000 at-risk youth, especially boys.
“A range of partners work together to offer ASPs with and at school. Currently, the Aspo tracks ASPs taking place in just over half of all no- and low-fee schools - 568 of 1048 schools.
“The momentum around extending the school day has grown tremendously over the past few years and there is broad-based recognition of the importance of focusing the developing children holistically.”