On Tuesday 26 April, Equal Education (EE) members will hold four separate marches to four different Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to demand that the WCED address the safety crisis affecting schools in black working-class communities.
We have members in four out of the eight education districts in the province, these are: Metro Central district, Metro North District, Metro South district, and Metro East district. We are marching to the district offices because it is not only the provincial education authorities that need to be held accountable- district-level officials also have many responsibilities toward our schools, and we will hold them accountable for those.
Our campaign to #DemandSafeSchools
In August 2014, each Equaliser branch in the Western Cape undertook a democratic process of identifying major obstacles to quality teaching and learning at their schools. We found that safety was a major problem in many schools, and have since launched a provincial campaign on these issues.
EE members in every part of the Western Cape where we are organised have had to deal with issues of violence, gangsterism, drugs, poor access control, sexual harassment and corporal punishment from when they were in primary school. According to the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, among all provinces, the Western Cape has the highest or second highest rate of assault, sexual assault, robbery, and threat of violence in schools. The impact this has on a young person’s capacity to learn, and on a teacher’s capacity to educate, is unquestionable.
Evidence of a school safety crisis
It has long been clear to EE members that there is a safety crisis facing communities in this province. One only need look at what has been unfolding in Manenberg to see how ill-equipped our schools are to deal with the effects of this on learners, teachers and parents.
But the conditions that exist in schools in Manenberg are the same as many other schools in poor communities all over the province and that is something that EE is determined to confront. Thus, the first stage of our campaign has been to gather evidence from learners, teachers and administrators facing these issues on the ground.
In August 2015, EE launched a social audit in Western Cape schools to collect this data. We audited two hundred and forty four schools, serving over 200 000 learners. We audited for more than two months, partnering with organisations and community members all over the Western Cape – the Women on Farms Project and the Triangle Project played an integral role in this work.
Overall, 244 schools were audited and 912 learners were interviewed.
In terms of violence in schools, our audit found that:
- Corporal punishment takes place at 83% of schools
- 4 out of 5 learners report that teachers use sticks, batons, pipes, and other objects to hit them.
- At 1 out of 3 schools there had been drug/alcohol use in the last 3 months
- 1 out of 6 schools had a gang presence in the last 3 months
- More than half the schools have had a robbery in the last year
- At 1 out of 4 schools there had been a case of vandalism in the last year
- At 1 out of 9 schools a stabbing had occurred in the last year
- At 3% of schools there had been a case of rape reported in the last year and learners reported incidences of sexual assault at 16% of schools
In terms of security guards and safety infrastructure like fences, we found that:
- Less than half (47%) of schools have a full-time security guard
- At only 54% of the schools with security guards had those guards been trained
- While 98% of schools were fenced, 42% of schools have holes in their fences
- Only half of schools have a fence that can actually keep people out
#FillUpTheDistricts on 26 April
On 26 of April we will be handing over three sets of detailed information on our findings directly to top district education department officials. The first will be school –level audits undertaken by Equalisers, which will provide district heads with information about safety issues at individual schools. The second will be social audit safety data for their district, so they can look into the specific conditions at schools that EE auditors observed and recorded from learners and administrators. And last will be a summary of the social audit safety findings for the whole province, which will provide a broad overview of the major issues affecting school safety in the Western Cape.
Four districts, four marches, one day, one demand
We will be putting forward one demand on the 26th: that each education District Director consider the information we present to them, and respond within two weeks with a clear plan detailing how they plan to address the school safety crisis in this province.
For Further comment, contact:
Nishal Robb (Head of the Western Cape) – 079 511 6790
Mase Ramaru (Deputy Head of the Western Cape) – 076 666 5614
Tshepo Motsepe (General Secretary of Equal Education) – 071 886 5637
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE Spokesperson)