By Ragheema Mclean
Education experts have raised concerns about the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) not adequately addressing potentially life-threatening issues within schools.
This comes after the department’s commendation of a Mitchells Plain school for notifying parents about students potentially accessing the anti-anxiety prescription drug Xanax, following a near-fatal incident involving a learner last year.
Speaking on VOC Breakfast, activist, and founder of Parents for Equal Education SA (PEESA) Vanessa le Roux expressed frustration with the department’s tendency to downplay serious issues in schools.
Le Roux stressed that the incident in Mitchells Plain is not isolated, highlighting a widespread problem on the Cape Flats where children are not only gaining access to such drugs but also engaging in their sale on school grounds.
“There’s violence that goes with it, gangsterism that goes with it, and so many children are endangered. There are dangerous fights over drug territory, violence, and gangsterism associated with the distribution of these drugs on school grounds,” added Le Roux
Furthermore, she also criticized the WCED for seemingly prioritizing its reputation over addressing the immediate concerns, “With the WCED, there’s always an issue where they protect the brand more than the issue at hand,” she claimed.
Le Roux questioned the commendation of the school, arguing that the issue had escalated, and preventative measures needed to be implemented.
“How are they commending the school when the issue has already gotten so far out of hand, they need to prevent these things. When a school sends out a letter, it means it is beyond their control.”
“They are not putting in any intervention measures and they are not informing us on what they are doing to stop this.”
In response, WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond refuted claims of downplaying the issue.
Hammond clarified that the school’s letter merely indicated rumours of learners having access to Xanax tablets, prompting the school to create awareness and warn parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
“The WCED then commended the school for taking proactive action and alerting parents and for committing to take steps to address the issue in partnership with the WCED and law enforcement agencies. For example, introducing search and seizure exercises at the school.”
She concluded, “Should the school require further intervention or should there be individuals singled out then the school can request further support from us or we will refer them to a partner agency.”