A total of 1 300 schools in South Africa were in the 2017/18 financial year identified to implement the school safety programme, a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education and Portfolio Committee on Police heard yesterday.

This is up from the 1 249 schools in South Africa that were identified for the programme in the 2017/18 financial year. The programme commenced in the 2015/16 financial year with 1 053 schools that were linked to police stations to advance the school safety programme, the South African Police Service (SAPS) told the meeting.

The meeting heard that maintenance of the programme included a sustained action by the SAPS to deal with a persistent challenge or problem at the school until it is resolved. Although this figure is on the increase, it is still considerably lower than the number of schools in the country. Currently South Africa has 23 956 schools, as compared to the 1 151 police stations.

Committee member, Major-General Ockert Terreblanche, wanted to know if the SAPS has other measures of intelligence it uses, seeing that the number of schools outnumbers that of police stations. The SAPS told the meeting that the School-Based Crime Prevention Guideline was developed by the SAPS in 2009 and intended to be a resource for SAPS members working with youth crime prevention and school safety. The guideline is aimed at providing a framework, within which the SAPS should work in support of school safety programmes. Communities and environments are not identical, therefore, within the framework provided by this guideline, the SAPS at provincial and local level must adapt its work to the local needs.

Portfolio Committee of Police Chairperson, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said the number of unannounced visits to schools will be increased by the SAPS. She said violence must be addressed at home and in our communities before it reaches school level. β€œIt is already too late when it plays itself out at school. But we want to assure everyone that we want to reverse the cycle of violence in our society.”

Some of the challenges experienced by the SAPS with the implementation of the school safety programme are a shortage of resources like SAPS personnel as SAPS-appointed members have other crime prevention responsibilities outside of the school safety programme, and the fact that School Safety Committees have not been established in all schools or are not functional.

Committee member, Mr Ronnie Moroatshehla, said visible policing is required in hotspot areas and also called for greater stakeholder involvement.

The SAPS said violence in schools is a societal problem, which requires all stakeholders to play their part to create a safe learning and teaching environment. This necessitates a collaborative approach, whereby the several stakeholders will be consulted in reviewing the school safety programmes.

By Rajaa Azzakani
11 September 2019