South Africa

45% of urban Cape schools are at ‘highest risk’ of crime

Western Cape public schools are the hardest hit by widespread violence because of the prevalence of drug abuse and gangsterism.

According to nongovernmental organisation Equal Education’s (EE) 2015 audit, an estimated one in six pupils and administrators feel unsafe at school in the Western Cape.

EE put the number of “high risk” urban schools in the province at 45%, especially in the poorer schools on the Cape Flats and in Gugulethu and Nyanga.

The independent organisation said secondary school pupils were six times more likely to feel unsafe at school.

So widespread is school violence in the province that an estimated two in five pupils have experienced it and three in five have witnessed a violent event.

The EE audit found that two-thirds of pupils walked to school and more than 80% were unaccompanied, with one in four feeling unsafe on their way to school.

The Western Cape department of education has implemented a safe schools programme to address the problem, but EE researcher Stacey Jacobs said the intervention did not go far enough.

Jacobs said: “There is a call centre intended to provide a contact point for pupils and teachers to report cases of physical, emotional abuse, burglaries, vandalism and other incidents relating to safety.

“It should be noted that, despite this significant mandate, the call centre staff consists of only five trained psychologists to serve about 1600 schools.”

Jacobs said the programme was aimed at safeguarding people and property on public school premises by ensuring there were proper fences, alarm systems and burglarproofing.

In response to widespread concerns about safety at schools, a national schools safety framework has been implemented.

“But the framework does not represent a new approach to confronting school safety.“Instead, it consolidates existing strategies and programmes aimed at fostering safe schools and reducing violence,” said Jacobs

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