Shutdown of schools in Khayelitsha to continue til Friday

Earlier this year, the Khayelitsha Education Forum led a protest to highlight the need for improved security at schools in the township. Archive Photo by Mzi Velapi

The Khayelitsha Education Forum led a march to the Magistrate Court calling for improved safety at schools in the area.

Teaching and learning came to a standstill in Khayelitsha on Thursday as teachers, learners and parents marched for safety in schools, calling for the deployment of security guards amongst other demands. According to the Khayelitsha Development Forum, “between January 2020 and today (10 February), more than six schools have already fallen victim to violent crime by armed assailants.”

The chairperson of Khayelitsha Education Forum (KEF, a portfolio of Khayelitsha Development Forum), Nomawethu Mosana, said that they have for the past three years asked the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to deploy guards at schools. “We had several meetings where we have been promised that they would deploy security at schools but we are tired of promises and we have decided to march today. We do not care if they do not approve of the march,” she said.

Mosana said that ideally they want five guards per school, three to work the night shift and two for the day shift.

The KEF says that teachers and learners at Khayelitsha schools are exposed everyday to robberies. They say the Western Cape Education Department has so far “only responded on installation of access controls which prove to be inadequate.”

According to Thokozani Ngcayiyana, a teacher at Matthew Goniwe Memorial High School, a colleague in Site B was shot at inside the school premises and was hospitalised. “Teachers and learners are at risk inside and outside of school. We have to patrol the schools ourselves. The problem with the caretakers at schools is that they are not trained,” he said. Ngcayiyana is member of SADTU (South African Democratic Teachers Union) and chairperson of the Khayelitsha School Governing Body Forum.

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Stanley Maqubela the principal of Lwandle Primary which was broken into in May 2018, said that they were victims of the robbery due to a lack of security at the gate.

A Representative Council of Learners (RCL) member at Sizimisele Technical High in Mandela Park, Esona Matwele said that they are not safe at his school. Dealers sell drugs to the learners through gaps in the broken fence . “Last year they came pretending to be parents and they took laptops and food that is meant for the school feeding scheme,” he said. The RCL president said that the only thing that would make them feel safe would be the deployment of guards at the school.

An RCL member from KwaMfundo High School in Harare, Nomatshawe Matwa, told Elitsha that one of the teachers was held at gunpoint on the school premises last week Wednesday while their principal was shot at by thugs at the school. “We do not feel safe at all, we are scared. We are scared to go to afternoon classes,” said the Grade 10 learner.

Nozuko Mdingi, the head of safety and security at the South African National Civic Organisations in Khayelitsha said that the only solution that they see is the deployment of soldiers to schools.

The Khayelitsha Education Forum said that the protest will continue on Friday and they are hoping to attract the attention of the national government and members of Parliament that are attending the State Of the Nation Address.

In a statement, the WCED condemned the protest saying that the closing of the schools is not the answer. “The WCED has engaged with members of the KEF/KDF on repeated occasions – these engagements also included other school safety stakeholders such as SAPS and the Department of Community Safety (DOCS). During these engagements we made it clear that providing armed security guards to every school is simply not a viable option – it is neither financially possible nor educationally desirable to militarize school properties in this manner.”

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