20 February 2008

New approach to school violence

An early warning system is to be implemented in 240 Gauteng schools to prevent "senseless" violence, education MEC Angie Motshekga announced on Wednesday.

An early warning system is to be implemented in 240 Gauteng schools to prevent "senseless" violence, education MEC Angie Motshekga announced on Wednesday.

"...there is ongoing bullying in schools; all forms of violence in schools," she said, adding that her department was deeply worried.

The warning system, known as Project Hlayisika (to be safe) would involve safety inside and outside schools. It would include the fencing of school premises and insuring pupils were not at risk from contractors on the property. It would also involve teaching children conflict management "because half the time (the violence) is learners against learners", as well as threat identification and management.

Under the project, the department, in conjunction with the Department of Safety, would try to increase the police presence around schools and to recruit pupils as safety marshals.

Community helping in fight against crime
Motshekga was speaking at a briefing outlining the Gauteng legislature's social cluster's priorities for the year. Safety MEC Firoz Cachalia said crime as a whole appeared to have consistently decreased in Gauteng in the past 18 months.

However, he stressed that the people of Gauteng would be the only arbiters of whether the province was indeed safe. Crimes which had decreased were murder, attempted murder, rape, aggravated robbery, common robbery, assault GBH and common assault.

For this, Cachalia credited the efforts of the community operating in tandem with the police and province. He emphasised, though, that crime levels were "nowhere near" where they needed to be.

He said 1 640 volunteer crime fighters had been recruited, trained and deployed in 26 areas throughout the province since March 2007, with plans to increase this number to 4 000 by March this year.

Drugs and alcohol still a problem
Substance abuse remained a concern, social development MEC Kgaogelo Lekgoro said. "We have seen an increase in alcohol drinking activities among women and children," he said.

"In Gauteng, research has shown that the most abused substances are alcohol, nicotine and dagga."

He said that Gauteng had to continue to expand its anti-poverty programme to reach those in need and the most vulnerable in society if it were to call itself a "caring society". – (Sapa) - February 2008

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