​Equal Education and school pupils protest about school safety outside Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s home

The protest by about 80 pupils and activists from Equal Education outside the home of Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s home on Thursday, was a cry to be heard, the group said.

They claimed an audit on school safety sent to her office two months ago, was being ignored.

“We want to engage,” provincial EE head Nishal Robb told News24. “This was a move of desperation.”

Dozens of young people stood outside Schäfer’s Bergvliet home on Thursday for two hours in a bid to discuss the results of the audit.

Schäfer, however, did not engage with them. A video posted on Twitter by Equal Education shows her walking out of her front gate to her car while police stand in front of the organisation’s representatives who call out to her.

The organisation supplied the MEC with the results of a social audit of safety and sanitation conditions in Western Cape schools.

A total of 912 pupils were surveyed between September and November last year about the conditions at 244 schools. Site inspections were also conducted and school administrators were interviewed.

Among the findings was that one in every six people at the province’s schools feel unsafe owing to a widespread lack of a sense of security.

The research also found that at 83% of schools, teachers were using corporal punishment.

At 91% of the schools where corporal punishment was reportedly still done, teachers used a form of weapon – the most common being a ruler or small stick.

Robb said numerous attempts had been made by the organisation to engage with Schäfer about the findings, which were handed over to the provincial education department 10 weeks ago.

Schäfer, however, said Equal Education’s “intimidatory grandstanding” offers no solution to improving real education issues.

She said the activists had blocked access to her driveway and demanded that she go outside to address them.

Schäfer insisted she had no issue with engaging with any organisation.

“Today, however, a line was crossed. They came, apparently, to hand me what they have called a social audit.  I have engaged with Equal Education on numerous occasions on social media regarding this issue of their ‘social audit’ – at no point did they request to meet me or try and engage with me at my workplace.”

She said she had asked for the report on several occasions and has not received it.

What she did receive, Schäfer said, was hundreds of handwritten notes from pupils which had to be collated by district directors to whom the audit was addressed.

The information did not refer to specific cases or dates and some issues were in relation to their community, which was not the responsibility of the WCED, she pointed out.

“The WCED drafted a response to Equal Education which has not yet been sent by the department at the time of the protest today. Their demand of two weeks was simply not possible or reasonable, given the disorderly documents provided to us which had to be individually collated and captured, as well as the huge amount of work the districts have to do every day.

“If Equal Education wanted me to respond, why did they address the ‘report’ to the district directors, and why have they to date still failed to furnish me directly with a copy?  They clearly know my email address – which is used by them on a frequent basis, to which we respond at length on various issues.”

Schäfer said it wasn’t because she was afraid of the pupils that she didn’t collect the group’s memorandum. Rather, it was because she “will not allow a dangerous precedent to be set that people can feel entitled to march illegally to my home”.

“The learners are more than welcome to meet with me at my office at a mutually convenient time if they wish to engage constructively in a genuine attempt to improve education in the Western Cape.”

Police spokesperson Andre Traut confirmed officers monitored the picket on Thursday morning. “The small group of protesters dispersed peacefully at around 08:35,” he said.

No one was arrested. – News24

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

We honour the teachers who saw the potential in us

On Monday, 5 October — World Teachers Day — we recalled the teachers who helped us become the people we are today

Time the state drilled down into water scarcity at schools

When the hard lockdowns kicked in it was discovered that 3 000 schools didn’t have an adequate water supply. But this is not a new problem

SANDF mum on serial rapist claim

An internal report on sexual offences at a military academy says the defence force failed a deceased rape victim and has called for an internal investigation

Open schools mean full tummies as feeding schemes resume

About four in five learners in the country’s poorest schools rely on the one meal they receive at school, but they weren’t able to get it for more than four months, during which child hunger increased because of the pandemic

Covid plateau in Western Cape carries ‘be vigilant’ warning

The province has reported a drop in new infections, especially in densely populated areas such as Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Gugulethu, Nyanga and Manenberg.

Scores die in Western Cape’s deadly taxi tit-for-tat

Forty-three people were shot dead in the first six months of this year in the Western Cape’s intractable taxi violence, while close to 100 have been arrested and 40 are on court rolls in connection with the conflict

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Mboweni plans to freeze public sector wage increases for the...

The mid-term budget policy statement delivered by the finance minister proposes cutting all non-interest spending by R300-billion.

SAA to receive R10.5-billion government bailout after all

Several struggling state-owned entities received extra funds after the medium term budget policy speech

Malawi court judges win global prize

Members of the small African country’s judiciary took a stand for democracy to international approval

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday