Lack of security grave threat to children’s lives in Helenvale
Two Helenvale schools – situated in the heart of gang territory – have become war zones, with three shooting incidents on the grounds in less than three weeks. The incidents have left pupils and teachers fearing for their lives, as minimal security at the schools continues to be a matter of grave concern.
Meanwhile, a teacher at Gertrude Shope was left traumatised after she was robbed at gunpoint on the school premises earlier this month.
Parents halted teaching for a week, demanding that the Department of Education take their call for more security seriously.
Teaching resumed on Tuesday after the department agreed to employ a security guard and upgrade the school’s fence.
Two parents at Hillcrest Primary School, Prilene Roussouw, 42, and Sharon Komoeto,44, said they worried every day about their children’s safety.
“The teachers are forced to lock the doors. My biggest concern is that some parents go to the school during the shootings and demand to take their children home,” Roussouw said.
Komoeto said at times she did not know if she should send her two children – in grades 3 and 6 – to school or keep them at home as her house was in the firing line.
“The sad thing is that we have become used to this violence – it is as if we are living in a movie. Our children are not safe,” she said.
Across the road from the school, Helenvale Primary School has double-fencing and three women monitor cars that come and go.
However, school principal Malcolm Roberts said this had not stopped criminals from entering the school.
“The shooting incidents that happen around our school almost on a daily basis is a major problem, because it has a negative impact on quality learning and teaching,” Roberts said.
“These children have to grow up in a traumatic environment.
“It is as if they have become accustomed to it, because they would rather run towards the shooting instead of away from it.
“The strangest thing is that life just returns to normal a few minutes later. That is concerning.
“We are trying our best to ensure the safety of our children. Another method we introduced is the ‘walking bus’ where a group of mothers walk with the children in the morning and afternoons. This is helping.”
Northern Areas Education Forum secretary Richard Draai said it was a known fact that the children in these areas were not safe.
“It is a serious issue. Sadly nothing is being done to assist with the safety of these pupils,” Draai said.
“A visible presence from the metro police can assist with this.”
A David Livingstone Secondary School teacher, who did not want to be named, said the violent incidents on the school premises were a result of outside elements spilling over onto the playground.
“As teachers, we need to be alert because our pupils, especially from the township areas, are being mugged on a daily basis,” she said.
Only half of the school’s fencing was complete, which allowed easy access for criminals, she said.
Three weeks ago, a Schauderville school teacher’s life was on the line, facing a firearm to protect a pupil during a dispute.
Education expert Professor Susan van Rensburg said it was unacceptable that teachers and pupils worked under such traumatic circumstances.
“It is a reality that people are being shot in the streets. Gangsters enter the school grounds and shoot,” Van Rensburg said.
“The principal and the teachers are under siege by some pupils and the gangs.
“If you are being threatened by things like that, plus what you have seen happening around you, it’s unbearable that you can continue teaching in such circumstances while nothing is being done to address it.”
Department spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said the department relied heavily on assistance from the police after an a memorandum of understanding was signed a few years ago.