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Getting schools on the team

A project to create safe communities and schools for children in Lavender Hill, Cape Town, has a name that says it all: 'Children Are Precious'.

A project to create safe communities and schools for children in Lavender Hill, Cape Town, has a name that says it all: ‘Children Are Precious’.

It is run by the Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN) in partnership with local schools. Three schools that have already teamed up with the NGO are Lavender Hill High School, Christian David Moravian Primary School and Zerilda Park Primary School.

‘Children Are Precious’ only launches on November 21 but it has been implemented in small steps since August this year at the high school. It is a pilot project that will run until 2011 and has support from the social development department.

Christina Nomdo, RAPCAN’s executive director, says the programme is a “prevention model” to combat child abuse “linking directly with the ethos of the new Children’s Act”.

“The findings of a baseline study conducted in 2009 indicate that families in Lavender Hill are extremely vulnerable to child abuse and neglect. Misconceptions of child abuse and neglect are common and there is a lack of services for abused and neglected children in Lavender Hill,” says Nomdo.

“Through a process of community dialogues and conversations we are hoping to positively influence how children are perceived and treated by adults in the community.”

Faseeg Manie, who has been principal of Lavender Hill High School for eight years, says the 33 teachers at the school “wanted to get on with what they are good at which is teaching”. Their efforts have been diverted though by the social problems of the school’s 1 000 learners that demand their attention.

“Teachers sometimes lack empathy and skills to deal with learners. Our learners need to be taught that they should talk about their problems and that violence is not the only response,” says Manie.

“RAPCAN offers our school the right people with skills and knowledge that teachers lack. Young people face violence at home and gangsterism in their communities. We have high drop out rates at working class high schools because of the socio-economic context. RAPCAN wants to ensure that children don’t fall through the cracks in the system.”

Milly Pekeur, manager of the ‘Children Are Precious’ project, says they will conduct parenting programmes at schools with families who have to deal with incidents of child abuse. They will also talk to learners about parenting to “prevent children from being parents at such a young age”.

It seems an appropriate topic as Manie says the school also has learners who are pregnant. “They will give birth and come back to school,” he adds.

Pekeur explains that their project model is “not welfare but takes a more developmental approach”.

“We don’t give children a handout. The welfare system has operated from that perspective. We want to have a long-term impact. We offer a community-based model of children’s services. The child is part of a family, school and community and we have interventions on those different levels,” she says.

The project includes parenting support in Lavender Hill and training workshops for teachers who need to be empowered on dealing with children. Learners will also have access to RAPCAN support workers at their schools.

“I don’t expect the world from RAPCAN,” says Manie. “For them to be here with their team is not going to make it all perfect. If we can save a few of them then I would happy. And it means that our school we will be able to operate better.”

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