/ 20 February 2008

Gauteng takes steps against school violence

An early-warning system is to be implemented in 240 Gauteng schools to prevent ”senseless” violence, provincial education minister Angie Motshekga announced on Wednesday.

”There is ongoing bullying in schools; all forms of violence in schools,” she said, adding that her department is deeply worried.

The warning system, known as ”Project Hlayisika”, meaning ”to be safe”, will involve safety inside and outside schools. It will include the fencing of school premises and ensuring pupils are not at risk from contractors on the property.

It will also involve teaching children conflict management — ”because half the time [the violence] is learners against learners” — as well as threat identification and management.

Under the project, the department, in conjunction with the department of safety, will try to increase the police presence around schools and recruit pupils as safety marshals.

Motshekga was speaking at a briefing outlining the social cluster of the Gauteng legislature’s priorities for the year.

Gauteng safety minister Firoz Cachalia said crime as a whole appears to have consistently decreased in the province in the past 18 months. However, he stressed that the people of Gauteng can be the only arbiters of whether the province is indeed safe.

Crimes that have decreased are murder, attempted murder, rape, aggravated robbery, common robbery, assault (grievous bodily harm) and common assault. For this, Cachalia credited the efforts of the community operating in tandem with the police and province.

He emphasised, though, that crime levels are ”nowhere near” where they need to be.

He said 1 640 volunteer crime fighters have been recruited, trained and deployed in 26 areas throughout the province since March last year, with plans to increase this number to 4 000 by March this year.

Substance abuse remains a concern, social development minister Kgaogelo Lekgoro said. ”We have seen an increase in alcohol drinking activities among women and children,” he said. ”In Gauteng, research has shown that the most abused substances are alcohol, nicotine and dagga.”

He said that Gauteng has to continue to expand its anti-poverty programme to reach those in need and the most vulnerable in society if it is to call itself a ”caring society”. — Sapa