Successful Launch of Safer Schools Network in Mandela Metro. 19/10/2016

Published by SAFERSPACES

In Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, a Safer Schools
Network was launched as a vibrant platform for schools to discuss safety
issues and find ways how to make our schools a safe and
learner-friendly environment for learners and teachers.

Safety at schools around the country remains a big concern. In the
Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, many schools are reporting for example
drug dealing, bullying, sexual abuse and gangsterism as part of the
daily challenges. An unsafe school environment of this nature cannot be a
conducive learning environment at the same time. If both teachers and
learners feel unsafe in or around their schools, it will eventually
result in low academic performance with all its negative consequences
both for the underperforming individual as well as the community and
society at large.

It is high time to bring the concerned stakeholders and schools
together to find solutions for the growing challenges around schools
safety.

 

The GIZ’s Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) programme in cooperation
with Masifunde’s Youth for Safer Communites (YSC) project joined forces
with the Project for Conflict Resolution and Development (PCRD) to
create the Safer Schools Network as a vibrant platform for schools in
the NMBM to discuss safety issues and find ways how to make our schools a
safe and learner-friendly environment for learners and teachers.

 

The Safer Schools Network was officially launched on the Thursday, 28th July 2016, in the NMBM’s Department of Education.  

More than 70 participants followed the invitation, amongst them were
principals and deputies from 32 schools, including all 15 hotspot
schools of the National Department of Basic Education Ministerial
Intervention Plan, representatives of the NMB Department of Safety and
Liaison, chairpersons of the local Community Policing Forums, SAPS, the
District as well as the Provincial Safer School Coordinator of the
Department of Education and the Department of Social Development.

From NGO side three organisations were present, who are working on
the increase of school safety in the Nelson Mandela Bay: PCRD together
with the General Motors SA Foundation, who jointly implement the
National School Safety Framework (NSSF) in several schools in Port
Elizabeth, Uitenhague and Humansdorp. And Masifunde Learner Development
who are implementing a youth-driven school safety approach within the
YSC project in more than 32 high schools.

 

The plenary was honoured by the speech of the acting District Director
of the Department of Education Mrs. Grobler who – as host – pointed out
the importance of a safe school environment for academic success and the
benefit of that network for all stakeholders in the field. The
Provincial Safer Schools Coordinator Mr. Songca explained in his
presentation the implementation of NSSF and the Ministerial Intervention
plan in the Eastern Cape. Followed by Mrs. Jessie Bohr (VCP) who was
drawing the bigger picture of GIZ’s commitment of violence & crime
prevention on national and provincial level. Their main aim is to bring
the concerned stakeholders together in order to improve the conditions
for building safer communities. This starts already at school level. In
this context GIZ and Masifunde are piloting since 2012 the Youth for
Safer Communities Project. Mr. Jonas Schumacher showed in his speech the
power of youth driven activities like YSC. It is a successful example
of youth taking the initiative to make a difference in their schools and
communities. YSC motivates the youth to play an active role in their
school safety by establishing and running drama, debates and peer to
peer groups.

 

Sometimes it seemed not easy for the two facilitators, Michael Bendle
and Jonas Schumacher, to guide the participants who came from totally
different backgrounds through the three participative brainstorming
sessions. But Michael and Jonas were a great team and succeeded to bring
all ideas together and cluster them into different areas, discussed
them with the plenary and that in only two hours time!

The biggest concerns were around

  • loss of values / morality of learners and their parents
  • alcohol and drug abuse, drug dealing on or nearby school premises
  • bullying, sexual abuse
  • cell phones (theft, cyber crime, how to manage cell phones in class etc.),
  • gangsterism,
  • infrastructure of schools (fences, schools next to taverns, etc.) ,
  • There was definitely a wish for more presence of SAPS in the schools.

The participants had already some ideas on measures to increase
school safety and announced the following topics to discuss in the next
Safer Schools Network Meetings:

Concerning violence and crime prevention the school officials voted
for the Youth for Safer Community Project in their school (all),
conflict management courses for teachers and learners (14), how to
implement NSSF in a more practical way, how to fight bullying,
activities against alcohol and drug abuse,  how to involve parents and
the community (5). The need of police presence in school premises should
also be discussed in one of the next meetings (8 schools).

All participants have agreed to meet again at the end of September
2016 in order to take up one or two of the topics of interest.

The success factor of this meeting were definitely the present YSC
facilitators , who assisted the organizing team in a most  professional
way, by receiving and registering the guest, assisting technically and
contently the facilitation team and decorating the big hall in a most
attractive way. Another success factor was the support of the District
Safety Coordinator Mr. Graham Papier, who constantly supported the whole
process of the preparation and realization of that event.

The first Safer Schools Network Meeting started big, the following meetings must now keep the pace.