Schools crisis: let's act now
"Studies have shown that where communities take ownership of their schools, the rate of violence is low."
This is partly what minister of basic education Angie Motshekga told parliament's joint portfolio committee on basic education and policing on Tuesday to hear what measures are being taken to stop the growing problem of lack of safety for pupils, and teachers, at and around schools.
What Motshekga had to tell the committee is common cause, hardly rocket science that would require supernatural powers to put into practice.
Yet, news headlines are dominated, almost week in and week out, by incidents of violence, periodically deadly, that has no place in society, let alone within and without schools.
This week alone the news headlines told of the deaths of three pupils at the hands of fellow schoolchildren - all in a space of three days.
If that doesn't scream national crisis - nothing ever will.
But we are of the view that it would take more than just a clarion call and declaration of intent by those in power to do something to beat away this relentless tide of destruction consuming all in its wake.
Yes, we agree with the minister, schools are part and parcel of our communities and will often than not mirror what happens in their surrounds. Her call is for greater community and parent participation in the schooling of children beyond merely paying fees and other forms of passive support.
Motshekga declared that the department had taken steps, such as vetting teachers before filling posts at school to ensure bad apples are sorted out before they render the whole sack rotten.
She also announced intent to deploy learner support agents in troubled schools for counselling of both victims and perpetrators of bullying, which often escalates into the murders we end up reading about in the news.
Great. But what is of concern is the mention of improving schools environs by, for instance, the closure of taverns and liquor outlets near schools.
Now, have we not heard that one before? That we are still talking about doing that today speaks volumes of lack of action by the government on something so basic that when done will send an unequivocal message about ending the lawlessness environment in which we are raising our children.
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