A number of illegal items in school premises were seized during a search and seizure operation conducted by South African Police Service at Woodlands High School in Cape Town. Picture: Supplied.

Cape Town - A number of illegal items were seized during a search and seizure operation conducted by police at Woodlands High School in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, on Thursday.

Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer and Community Safety MEC Alan Winde visited Woodlands High to oversee the surprise "search and seizure" operation by Saps. The searches by SAPS form part of a broader campaign to improve safety in schools in the province after a flare-up of gang violence throughout the province.

In a statement, the provincial education department said the majority of incidents reported were off school premises and within the community affected, but that gang violence can spill over into schools when learners were directly involved.

“We are therefore concerned for the safety of learners and educators when there are flare-ups in the community and the possibility of weapons being carried into schools. Safe and secure learning environments are essential if we are to ensure that quality education is delivered. It is imperative that our schools remain weapon and drug-free,” Schafer said.

“The reality is that some learners do come to school in possession of dangerous objects and illegal drugs, despite the fact that our Western Cape provincial school education act clearly states that no person may bring these items onto the school premises at any time.”

In 2017, according to the safe school's directorate, there were 177 instances where drugs were found on learners. In 2018, the number of incidents had increased to 194. About 56 instances were reported where learners had weapons on them on school premises and in 2018, the number of incidents increased to 78.

“This is of grave concern to me and it is for this reason that the WCED works with Saps to conduct random search and seizure operations at schools across the province,” said Schafer. “The possibility exists that learners in possession of dangerous objects or alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs on our school grounds may cause serious psychological damage or physiological injury to others. This directly contributes to the challenges of providing an education of progressively better quality for all learners”, she added.   

Winde said: “We’ve seen a spate of violence in Mitchells Plain, with reports of 25 murders in the area in February alone. Operations such as this should not be happening at any of our schools. It is tragic and maddening that innocent learners and educators are being exposed to such dangers, with weapons being brought on to school premises by those affiliated to gangs.

“We have to go to great lengths to ensure that schools are protected from violence. Our education facilities ought to be respected, safe spaces where children can thrive, grow in knowledge, and where the leaders of tomorrow can be developed”, he said.

African News Agency (ANA)