South Africa: Communities Urged to 'Cherish, Protect and Care for Schoolchildren'

19 February 2020

The broader community, law enforcement agencies and organisations need to step in and assist the education department in tackling issues facing schools.

This was the sentiment of Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools CEO Paul Colditz and Shaheda Omar, the clinical director of the Teddy Bear Clinic, during a media briefing hosted by the National Press Club in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi also attended the discussion.

Omar said while various stakeholders in the system were looking at acts of violence in schools, less attention was being paid to the many challenges pupils and the schooling system were facing.

"We are just looking at the symptoms and we are certainly becoming a very reactive society from the side of both the government and civil society, [and] I think all of us are just rushing in... "

Omar said communities should react harsher in response to violence in schools, adding while research showed punitive measures were quick-fix solutions, they were not second-order changes.

She added schools needed to build relationships with law enforcement agencies who should visit the premises on a regular basis.

Colditz said while the safety and well-being of schools was the responsibility of school governing bodies, programmes of value-driven schools should be developed.

He added this programme should involve the broader community, including churches, NGOs and cultural organisations so that communities could accept responsibility proactively.

Colditz said the reactive approach should include involving professionals who were within the communities, including psychologists and trauma counsellors.

"They [professionals in the communities] should approach the schools and say, 'Here we are, we don't want to impose ourselves, but we can assist because we have these skills, knowledge... '

"And on an ongoing basis, provided that, the education department cannot afford a psychologist at every school, but these people are in the community."

Colditz said it was time for people to stop standing aside while watching schools being burnt down, schoolchildren were killed or when crime and violence affect a school, adding they should take ownership and make a difference.

Lesufi emphasised schoolchildren were going through a tough time and needed someone to listen to them, adding the department had advised schools that they should have designated teachers whom pupils could approach when they needed to talk.

He said the system was functioning as the department had worked on ensuring that every school had professional psycho-support.

"Community support is very important. The community must cherish, protect and care for our children, especially the girl child," added Lesufi.

Source: News24

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