No teaching, learning
can occur when students,
teachers are at risk
Helen Zille, premiere of Western Cape Province in South Africa. Click image to enlarge.
IF YOU THINK YOUR local schools are bad – and many Americans justifiably do – then just take a look at those in my former home town, Cape Town.
According to local newspapers and the BBC, violence in the schools at the southern tip of South Africa has reached epidemic proportions.
Sixteen schools were closed for two days – Thursday and Friday – this week because the mayhem got so out of control.
It does not sound like an environment where teaching and learning can take place.
WATCH A VIDEO OF THE VIOLENCE BELOW THE FOLD
ACCORDING TO MICHELLE JONES, education writer for the Cape Times (where I was a cub reporter in 1974), the schools in one community were closed so that officials could weigh new safety measures.
In Manenberg schools close because of violence Jones wrote:
“Schools in Manenberg are to be closed [Thursday] and [Friday] as educators discuss safety issues with provincial government officials.
“This was announced to principals and teachers of schools in Manenberg who had earlier protested outside the Western Cape Education Department’s metro central district offices in Maitland.”
The neighborhood of Hanover Park, where gang violence has been reportedly escalating. Click image to enlarge.
The province’s Prime Minister, Helen Zille, had earlier called on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to hold an urgent meeting on gang violence and to deploy government troops in hot spot areas.
Wow! That’s pretty radical medicine for a bunch of rowdy school kids.
“The principals and teachers were later called to the offices to discuss their grievance with department officials,” Jones wrote.
“They made emotional pleas for increased safety support and an emergency plan from the department.”
There are 11 primary and three secondary schools in the area.
The latest outbreak is a continuation – perhaps worsening – of a situation that has been ongoing for quite some time.
The Cape Argus, the afternoon daily in Cape Town, reported July 8 that violence was increasing in the region’s schools.
In “SA school violence escalates” Lauren Anthony wrote:
“One in five South African secondary school pupils is a victim of violence, including assault, robbery and even cyber bullying.
“A new study has found that schools are not the safe havens they are supposed to be.”
It is not just the students in danger, she reported.
“Teachers are also not safe, with 12.4 percent of those canvassed saying they had experienced physical violence – often from pupils.
“Nearly 30 percent of teachers said the place they felt most unsafe was in the classroom.”
Thank goodness I have always felt safe in any of the classrooms I have taught in over the past 12 years.
THE VIOLENCE THIS WEEK also made its appearance in U.S. media via the Associated Press.
The Washington Post story this week on the school closures. Click image to enlarge.
A story on the web site of The Washington Post 16 schools near Cape Town closed because of gang violence; provincial leader calls for troops reported on the school closings.
“Education officials in a province in South Africa closed 16 schools, affecting 12,000 students, Thursday in an impoverished area near Cape Town because of a spike in gang violence that has left teachers too afraid to go to work.
“Underscoring the level of violence, one man who was identified by fellow members as belonging to a gang called the Americans was shot dead Thursday in an area in Manenberg where many children play.
“The young man’s mother, Aysha Ismail, was distraught as she spoke to The Associated Press by phone soon after seeing her son’s body.”
Any mother would be distraught at the death of her child.
It is tragic that the one place children should feel perfectly safe – in school – is so unsafe in Cape Town’s impoverished areas. This is compounded if the teachers, too, feel threatened.
There is no way teaching and learning can take place in such an environment. And there is no substitute for an education in getting ahead in today’s world.
Watch a video report on the violence below.
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