The North West Department of Education and Sport Development takes school safety very seriously and as an apex priority the department has put in place various policies and measures to ensure the safety of all learners, educators and relevant stakeholders in schools.
The Department reiterates that there is no place for violence, drug-use/abuse, sexual harassment and other criminal acts in schools as it poses a serious barrier to learning. There is great focus on the inculcation of values and ethics and of a just and caring society within schools and communities. The Department views these ills in a serious light because they carry a potential to deprive our learners of their inherent constitutional rights to life, education, equality and dignity.
Interventions have focused on addressing elements of physical infrastructure related to proper fencing, alarm systems and burglar proofing, resilience-building programmes for young people and the strengthening of partnerships with relevant stakeholders.
The Department has a solid partnership with the South African Police Services (SAPS) aimed at linking schools with local police-stations and the establishment of functional School Safety Committees.
Schools are critical in instilling discipline and ensuring safety, thus the emphasis on Codes of Conduct for Learners at all public schools. Schools are therefore directly responsible for providing an environment conducive to the delivery of quality teaching and learning by, among other things, promoting the rights and safety of all learners, teachers and parents.
A National School Safety Framework has been developed to serve as a management tool for Provincial and District Officials responsible for school safety, principals, Senior Management Team Members, SGB members, teachers and learners to identify and manage risk and threats of violence in and around schools. The Framework is critical in empowering all responsible officials in understanding their responsibilities regarding school safety
The Department has developed a National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of alcohol and Drug use amongst learners in schools. As schools mirror the communities, curbing drug use in schools will in turn prevent drug use within the communities and render them safe for all citizens. Schools have been provided with a Guide to Drug Testing in South African Schools.
In terms of the Regulations for Safety Measures at all Public Schools the Minister has declared all public schools as drug free and dangerous weapon free zones.
Sexual harassment and violence affect learning environments negatively, creating an atmosphere of fear and aggression. These are certainly not conditions under which our learners should be subjected to as part of their learning experiences. Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Sexual Violence and Harassment; have been developed and distributed to schools to support schools and school communities in responding to cases of sexual harassment and violence against learners. The guidelines set out clearly how public schools should treat victims of sexual harassment and violence and the steps that must be taken to deal with those who have or are alleged to have committed such acts.
The department has released a handbook for learners on how to prevent sexual abuse in public schools, titled Speak Out – Youth Report Sexual Abuse. The purpose of the handbook is to equip learners with knowledge and understanding of sexual harassment and sexual violence, its implications, ways to protect themselves from perpetrators, and where to report. The handbook also provides very useful contact details of national and provincial organizations that can assist.
It is important for parents and communities to actively participate in addressing and promoting school safety. Parents and communities are well positioned to see to it that children are safe wherever they are.
The Department will continue in earnest to protect the rights of all children in schools. The success of these efforts rely largely on collective efforts of parents and communities to work together with schools to ensure that all children are safe and realise their full potential in school.