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Gang war: 63% of kids miss class

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Gang violence in Manenberg is taking its toll on teachers and pupils, with schools reporting pupil absenteeism levels of up to 63 percent – and teachers fearing for their lives.

“We are surrounded by gangsters at school. Must we be killed first before we can be dismissed?”

This was one of the many messages Jonavon Rustin, Western Cape secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu)received from fearful Manenberg teachers last week.

“The situation is serious. We empathise with the teachers and with the rest of the community who live in the situation.

“We are calling on security agencies to stabilise the situation,” he said.

In the latest incident of gang violence in Manenberg, a 24-year-old man was shot dead in Peta Walk just after 6am on Sunday.

It brings the number of deaths in the area since the most recent outbreak of violence to at least 15.

Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for MEC of Education Debbie Schäfer, said gangsters had reportedly arrived at Manenberg Primary on Thursday looking for members of a rival gang.

She said the principal had pleaded with them to leave. They were believed to be former pupils of the school.

“The principal also reported ongoing shooting for most of the day.”

She said the school reported attendance levels of below 50 percent for most of the week – with only 37 percent of pupils in attendance on Thursday.

“The Safe Schools call centre does regular checks with schools to assess the situation, to be able to identify if and where additional support may be required, and to encourage principals to log any concerns with the call centre.”

Rustin said principals should be given the authority to dismiss schools and could not wait for officials, who were outside of the area, to do so. Shelver said schools had to implement their safety plans when there were reports of violence.

“In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85/1993, every school must have a safety plan that meets local requirements and a committee responsible for implementing the plan.

“During an incident of gang violence and/or trespassing, the Safe Schools call centre ensures that relevant authorities are alerted to deal with gang intimidation and gang shootings in and around the school.”

She said schools should contact their circuit manager or district office directly if they needed, because of danger, to close for the day.

“However, it has to be considered that we can’t just let children go as their parents might not be at home and they may actually be safer at school.”

She said the union was welcome to discuss its concerns with Schäfer’s office.

Last week, mayor Patricia de Lille announced that 58 members of the metro police’s Stabilisation Unit had been redeployed to Manenberg and would be helping the Gang and Drug Task Team with “disruptive policing as well as integrated policing operations there”, until further notice.

She said provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula had confirmed that police would also deploy 36 members.

“We will be co-ordinating our efforts,” De Lille said.

[Source: Cape Argus]
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