Call for proactive crime prevention and psychological help at Gauteng schools

MEC Panyaza Lesufi discusses challenges facing the department of basic education in Gauteng.
MEC Panyaza Lesufi discusses challenges facing the department of basic education in Gauteng.
Image: TimesLIVE/Nico Gous

Stabbings, fatal vehicle accidents, attempted suicides, drownings and assaults by bullies are triggering trauma among school pupils, the Teddy Bear Clinic cautions.

Dr Shaheda Omar, the clinic's director, joined a discussion with Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and Paul Colditz, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) on Wednesday.

This comes as 16 Gauteng pupils have died in tragic circumstances since the start of the school year, the most recent being two pupils who died in a road accident in Tembisa, east of Johannesburg, on Monday. Safety of scholar transport is in the spotlight, as is the theft of school equipment and drugs being sold in and around school grounds.

“I don’t think I would have been able to deal with my children being killed. Parents are not supposed to bury their children, children are supposed to bury their parents. It’s a tragedy. Our hearts go out to the parents and communities that have lost children. It’s not only happening in Gauteng, but Gauteng has been hit the hardest,” Colditz said.

Omar said the focus should be on prevention instead of reaction.

“We need to look at the many different causes of violations of children. We have become a reactive society, both government and civil society. We are rushing in blindfolded without seeing what is happening,” Omar said.

She said among pupils, deaths could trigger “past trauma, might trigger feelings of survival guilt, lots of feelings of anger that not enough was done to protect and save lives”.

“Punitive measures are quick-fix solutions but they have long-term ramifications. We need to ensure that crime prevention programmes are implemented consistently. We need dedicated psychological staff, not just the department’s team. Child protection is everybody’s business,” she said.

Lesufi called for heightened involvement from the intelligence agencies.

“The intelligence community needs to tell us who are burning our schools. There is a strong need for education to be at the centre of their work. We also have to be harsh on taxi drivers who overload children,” Lesufi said.

The panel said communities had an important role to play in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of pupils and the protection of school infrastructure.