'School violence is a threat to SA's future'

Date: 22 Nov 2006
Minister says department must act to protect pupils, teachers If violence, abuse and drugs are to become a familiar and accepted part of schooling in South Africa, the country's future will be lost. This is according to Education Minister Naledi Pandor, who spoke at the school safety colloquium hosted by her department in Pretoria yesterday. She said the government was determined to maintain safe and caring schools in the country. The colloquium comes after a number of calls that there was a need for a national indaba to discuss the incidence of violence in schools. Pandor said the extent of violence - leading to murders and attempted murders among pupils highlighted in the media over the past year - was worrying. "We must not equivocate - they have no place in schools. I recognise that the right to education must be honoured, but if pupils are a risk to life and severely impair school functioning, we must provide alternative means of addressing their educational needs," Pandor said. "We need to act to protect teachers and pupils. All schools need to be fenced, security staff engaged, and counsellors and other professionals contracted. "I remain convinced that parents or guardians bear primary responsibility for the conduct and discipline of their children," she added. Pandor acknowledged that teachers in disadvantaged school and communities did not have sufficient support in confronting the problems of violence and ill discipline. This, she said, the department would address by intensifying support for them. "Schools must also be places of professional discipline. They should have clear rules, start on time and should have effective teaching - the ethos and morale in the school does have some influence on the character of the school. Schools should be firm on misconduct and inform police when crime is committed." Mary Jane of the Catholic Institute of Education said recognising, appreciating and celebrating people dedicated to the profession was a start to creating caring, safe schools. "How can teachers care for others if they themselves are not cared for? We need to begin at ground level - by caring for our teachers. I agree with the minister when she says engaging with the parents is critical. It takes a village to raise a child, so we need to work together with our communities to raise our children." Pandor said provinces must attend to the expansion of educational support services so that counsellors and other professionals were available to provide sustained support to pupils who needed this. "We must also look at how district offices could be assisted to provide learning spaces for learners who may be removed from schools. We are determined to maintain safe and caring schools throughout the country. Parents, teachers, community leaders and our youth must unite to confront this challenge." By Tsabeng Nthite The Star 22/11/06