“We sit with fear each and every day. We are unable to learn in a safe and comfortable environment at school. How are we able to concentrate when learners are always ignorantly involving themselves with drugs and gangsterism?”
These are the words of one concerned Trafalgar High School student speaking out about current challenges facing the school.
The drug scourge has prompted Trafalgar High principal Nadeem Hendricks to call on People Against Gangsterism And Drugs (PAGAD) for intervention on the school’s drug crisis.
“If I must reveal what is happening at various schools in the Western Cape, you will never believe me – it is absolutely shocking. Any principal that denies that he has students using drugs and involved in gangsterism is living in an imaginary world. This is a reality and very much alive amongst our kids…”
“I am a realist and I tackle things at face value. Therefore, I felt the importance of getting an organisation like Pagad on board for the safety of our school and those within the community,” said Hendricks.
“We have tried various other organisations in the past but they are always late with assistance. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) supplies us with various resources, which has been successful in the past as well, but this only helps to a limited degree and from there we need to go forward.”
Hendricks said he was forced to take things into his own hands.
“Our parents drop off their kids at school for most of the day, and they trust us to ensure that their kids are safe. We have learners coming to learn and then we also have learners walking the school grounds selling drugs and scaring innocent students. We have many merchants in our community and they are targeting our schools. These are easy sites to recruit and to sell their drugs to our kids. Whether you like it or not, it is at each and every school and something needs to be done about it…”
A school introductory program was brought in by PAGAD to help learners focus on safety and security, career guidance, life skills and teacher-student relationships. Aslam Toefy from PAGAD said he is pleased the school approached the organisation.
“At first, when the community heard ‘PAGAD’, they thought we are coming with guns blazing, but we came with safety and security. We also then implemented various programs to make schools conducive to learning, where teachers teach and learners learn.”
“Our area of work will concentrate on assisting extreme cases on and around the school grounds. Students are frequently threatened by gangsters and drug dealers on their way to and from schools. Teachers are concerned for their student’s lives and therefore we are willing to assist where ever we can to see to the safety and security of these learners.””
Toefy said numerous professionals with vast knowledge in different fields are on board to make the program a success.
“A lot of people do not know the quality of our organisation. We have lots of psychologist and various career experts working for us. Our intention with this program is to also develop the learner to make appropriate and suitable career decisions. It is extremely important for both the future success and personal well-being. A career decision made up of the wrong reasons not only wastes time but is often extremely costly.”
Teacher and learners at the school have already started various workshops, which commence on a daily basis to empower them with various skills and knowledge of dealing with issues currently facing them at school and in society.
“Alhamdulilah, I am glad that there has been some change at the school throughout these past few weeks. The kids are walking much freely without having to fear in the morning after school. Our team is here to patrol and support the community, and to ensure that our kids are safe and focusing on making the right decisions in life.”
Igsaan Higgins, an ex-student of Trafalgar High and a well-known attorney within the Muslim community said drugs has always been a problem on the school.
“I was at Trafalgar during the 80’s and that was the time that our classroom faced the Bloemhof Flats. We would watch them bull dozing various flats all the time, but one particular flat was never bull dozed. This flat is where the merchants stayed,” he explained.
“We had learners from Trafalgar walking over to these flats buying drugs. The merchant were always there and it was open to these kids at the time. However, the teachers were unaware that there was drug users on the school…”
“In my class, we had about 12 drug addicts and somehow there were no interventions or programs available by teachers. They were oblivious to the whole fact and that is why I celebrate the fact that Mr Hendricks and PAGAD are actually having this initiative where there is intervention.”
Higgins believes teachers can’t be expected to do everything and need the assistance of members of communities.
“Whether it is PAGAD or any other organisation – they need to come to schools and say that they are prepared to assist. The interventions that is being made by PAGAD is something that should have been done a long time ago… it’s about time.”
In the meantime, Trafalgar High School has invited other schools to follow in their footsteps and help make a difference in the community.
“The government and police is not going to help us. If the community does not stand together to tackle these problems then no one will do it for us. We need to think of the future of these kids. It is in our hands to come together make a change,” concluded Hendricks. VOC (Aishah Cassiem)