140828. Cape Town. Hermanus Mouwers, principal of Uitsig Primary speaking to the Cape Argus about the daily challenges they face at school and the upcomming Cravenby, Uitsig, Ravensmead, Elsies River Community Safety Summit on the 12th &13th of September where they will get all role players on board to try and make the streets and school environment a safer place for the youth. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Cape Town - Cape Town teachers are getting caught in the middle of fights between primary school pupils who are affiliated with rival gangs, many of whom bring weapons to school.

This and rampant vandalism of school property has prompted a group of Cape Town principals to join forces and fight the scourge.

The principals of schools in Cravenby, Uitsig, Ravensmead and Elsies River say their teachers are bearing the brunt of these problems and some have had to take stress leave.

“Our teachers get caught in the middle of fights (between pupils) and they have to play referee. It has a devastating effect on teaching,” said Hermanus Mouwers, principal of Uitsig Primary and a cluster co-ordinator for the Safe Schools programme.

John Aspeling, principal of Webner Street Primary in Ravensmead, said there had also been many cases of pupils bringing weapons to school.

“One learner said: ‘My brother told me to bring the knife and if they are looking for trouble I will sort them out’.

“This is the kind of thing we are trying to stop.”

Aspeling, who is also a Safe Schools cluster co-ordinator, said the suspension and expulsion of pupils was not a solution to the problem.

“It just means that you are shifting the problem. While the learner is still in the system you can try to mould them.”

The 23 schools in the area, the police and community policing forum, education district, parents and other organisations have started working together in a bid to address the problems. A community safety summit, one of many planned initiatives, will be held on September 12 and 13 at Ravensmead High.

The principals said there were many non-governmental and other organisations working in schools and the objective was to improve co-operation between the groups and to create a database of services.

Several of the schools had also started a “values programme” and were teaching pupils about a different value every month.

“Our aim is safer schools, safer streets and safer communities,” said Aspeling.

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Cape Argus