Primary schools of crime: Cops to fight gangsterism in primary schools

By MATT MEDVED


Primary schools make up a third of 109 “high-risk” schools in and around the city, as the youngest group of pupils suffer gangsterism, drug-dealing and violence, a report given exclusively to the Cape Argus reveals.

Gang activity and drug-dealing on school grounds have prompted the provincial government to deploy several hundred police reservists and crime-fighting volunteers to the 109 schools most at risk.

And on Monday Education MEC Cameron Dugmore called on schools to take a “zero-tolerance” approach to all forms of abuse, including bullying, to prevent it from spiralling into worse violence.

In the report the province pinpoints schools that are “violence and drug-peddling hotspots”.

Of these, 34 are primary schools.

Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain and Manenberg had the largest number of targeted schools, with Bonteheuwel, Delft, Eerste River, Gugulethu and Athlone on the second tier.

The revelations follow the latest school killing, in which Mogammat Sukarie Kannemeyer, a 17-year-old Grade 9 pupil at Eerste River High, was stabbed to death with scissors on Monday. A 17-year-old pupil has been arrested.

At another school on the list, Princeton High in Mitchell’s Plain, a new principal has been drafted in to tackle its epidemic of drugs and violence.

A total of 149 SAPS police reservists and 500 Bambanani volunteers have been deployed to the high-risk schools by Premier Ebrahim Rasool as part of his R1 billion anti-crime initiative.

Although department of education officials were reluctant to have the names of the schools released, the Cape Argus obtained a list of all 109 and the number of reservists and Bambanani volunteers to be deployed to each.

Safe Schools Project head Narriman Khan said 69 of the schools had received one reservist each, while two reservists had been deployed to the 40 schools most at risk.

She said the schools identified by the premier had been hit the hardest with substance abuse and crime.

“The volunteers are purely there as the eyes and the ears of the police,” Khan said.

“They will do the guarding around the school perimeter and protect the toilet and tuck shop areas.

“Sometimes if a learner belongs to a gang, they frequent those areas and force other learners to pay protection money for safe passage through there.”

Khan said the reservists would liaise with the volunteers and make arrests if necessary.

She also said that they would be enforcing “zero-tolerance” drug and weapon policies at the targeted schools, which would be worked into the schools’ codes of conduct.

“We get 40-odd shebeens operating in the areas immediately around these schools where illegal substances are sold, and learners sometimes bring the substances on to school premises to sell,” she said.

“This is the highest level of offence. Although we are developing support for learners who are addicted to drugs, we do not tolerate trafficking on the premises.”

Khan said the pupils and teachers at the schools would also receiving new programmes tackling behaviour modification, including conflict management and intervention training.

The premier’s programme has already met with resistance at schools.

In one incident, a Bambanani volunteer at one of the high-risk schools, Manenberg High, who refused to be named, said she had been attacked by a grade 9 student whom she had reprimanded.

After police intervened, the pupil had been suspended for five days.

L A Mnotoza, principal of Nelson Mandela Secondary School in Nyanga, said the reservists’ presence had served as a deterrent.

“The deployment has reduced drug-peddling remarkably. We rarely see an outside influence any more,” he said.

Dugmore said the provincial authorities were seeing a rise in vandalism and violence linked to the abuse of tik in communities, which affected the behaviour of children.

“Many incidents are occurring despite the efforts of the Safer Schools programme,” he said.

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~ by Matt Medved on May 29, 2007.

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