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Escalating violence calls for tightening of security measures

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Picture: Velani Ludidi/GroundUp (ANA Files) – Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum chairperson, Lucinda Evans (centre in orange), says children were confined to their homes during the recent school holidays because of gang violence in the area. Pupils learn by seeing the footage on social media of the recent brutal killing of artist Kiernan Forbes (AKA), bombings of cash-in-transit vehicles, abductions and human trafficking, all are readily available for youth and school children to see, the writer says.

By Hendrick Makaneta

The last week of January was characterised by many events. While President Cyril Ramaphosa was addressing delegates at the basic education sector lekgotla at the Sandton Convention Centre, a pupil was fighting for his life in Alexandra township after being stabbed by a fellow pupil.

A week before the terrifying incident, another pupil had been killed by a pupil at another school in Gauteng. Two weeks after the adjournment of the lekgotla, a teacher was stabbed by an intruder at a school.

The intruder held teachers at the school hostage and demanded to see the principal. The teacher who was stabbed, retaliated by shooting the victim. All the incidents took place at schools and in the presence of pupils and teachers.

As usual, the Gauteng Department of Education issued a media statement and the MEC, Matome Chiloane, promised that pupils and teachers would receive psycho-social support.

The endless murders of teachers and pupils no longer come as a surprise. Steadily and surely, society is getting used to the violence at schools. If something drastic is not done, violence will become part of the DNA of South African society.

Society will find that it is unusual to exist without one form of violence or another. Those who have studied pedagogy will tell you that at the foundation level, pupils learn by seeing.

The recent killing of artist Kiernan Forbes, also known as AKA, and the footage that went viral on social media, coupled with bombings of cash-in-transit vehicles, not to mention cases of abductions and human trafficking, all of which are readily available for the youth and the school children to watch on every social media page, strengthen my assertion that sooner or later, we will be forced to accept that South Africa is a highly violent society that cannot redeem itself.

Recently, in Limpopo, a Nigerian national was arrested for selling drugs to schoolchildren near Flora Park. As if our problems as a country are not enough, some 22 Afghan nationals, who are on the run from the Taliban, arrived at one of our border posts, seeking asylum. If their application for asylum is granted, it could mean that we might, at any time, become a target of the Taliban forces, further polarising the volatile situation in which we find ourselves.

Perhaps we need to applaud our Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, for putting the country first by rejecting the asylum seekers. In 1994, the challenges that faced South Africa were poverty, unemployment and inequality. But lately, everyone agrees that crime tops the other challenges.

The reality is that school violence cannot be eradicated if violent crimes that affect communities remain unattended. There is a link between crimes that are committed in schools and those in communities. The guy who sells drugs at school comes from the community. The pupil who stabs another pupil found their knife in their community.

The government must make a conscious decision to manage the safety of pupils by installing cameras on school premises. Security must be tightened at all levels. It cannot be that there are still schools that do not have proper fencing. No person should be allowed to enter a school without a valid ID. We need biometric systems that users can rely on to enter school premises. Parents and teachers must be registered on the system.

Of importance is the culture of schools. We need to inculcate the right culture, one that promotes ubuntu and respect among pupils. Respect for teachers must be strictly enforced. Pupils need to be taken to task if they fail to adhere to school policies. Discipline must be enforced very strictly and without favour.

In most instances, schools that experience high levels of violence are those that tolerate ill-discipline among their pupils and staff. We owe it to humanity to act, and to act now. Someone suggested that perhaps guns should also have tracking devices, so those who have them can be monitored to protect other citizens.

The suggestion makes sense. But to qualify the suggestion, Statistics South Africa must find a way to count the number of firearms in the country. Stats SA must tell us, how many guns are in the country and how many of those are legal.

This week, another incident rocked our school community. A man and a woman were shot at a Bedfordview nursery school, moments after the woman had dropped off her child.

Firearms in South Africa are the single biggest cause of instability and violent murders. We call on leaders in the government to prioritise safety, not only in schools but also in communities.