Fighting violence, drugs, vandalism

Mvuyo Mati

The Eastern Cape Education Department is embarking on a two-pronged approach to eradicate violence, pregnancy, vandalism, alcohol and drug abuse in schools.

This academic year has started and the education fraternity is bracing itself for breakdowns in discipline.

Last year the department experienced violence from pupils as young as 10 years old in some schools.

This is also the period when droves of newly circumcised youngsters, amakrwala, in the Eastern Cape descend on schools, dressed in khaki, with ochre-painted faces.

The department is concerned that some of these youngsters have turned to crime in schools in the past.

The community and school management agree that though many emerge from the summer initiation season well-behaved, some return disoriented and susceptible to outside influences.

They say that the young men are sent to initiation schools to master good conduct and responsibility, but unfortunately some do return ill disciplined and disrespectful.

Some become involved in activities that are unbecoming the training they received at initiation school.

Some connive with drug dealers and criminals and smuggle drugs and alcohol into schools.

Others use their newly acquired status of ubukrwala - manhood - to display outrageous behaviour towards their teachers and schoolmates, and others act viciously towards the elders in their communities.

Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani, pictured right, yesterday said that illicit substances were a major cause of violence in schools.

He also attributed the problems to the apathy of some parents and the community.

Pulumani said: "We have mobilised our communities to take ownership of schools and we have tried to win the hearts and minds of our pupils."

The department also urged all role-players to ensure that pupils respected school codes.

"It is incumbent on parents to ensure that their children adhere to the rules and regulations of schools," said Pulumani.

Though all schools have standard uniforms, the department will not impose a strict dress code. Pulumani said individual schools would determine how amakrwala and pupils dress.

"The school determines the uniform for its pupils," he said.

The department makes sure that schools maintain proper moral standards based on available guidelines, but parents also had a responsibility to ensure that these principles were adhered to.

Pulumani said: "We do not want to appear insensitive and alienate anyone. We try to strike a balance between orthodox and unorthodox conduct without ignoring the diversity of pupils."

Pulumani asked for the support of parents, the SGB, school management team and students' representative bodies, saying the department could not monitor misbehaviour, violence and other problems from the head office.