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SOUTH AFRICAN DEMOCRATIC TEACHERS UNION (SADTU) PRESS STATEMENT 23 October 2006



Schools Safety and Security: SADTU supports YCL call for Summit




The whole nation has been horrified by the rash of violent and deadly incidents to hit our schools in recent days. Our condolences go to the families of the victims and to the learners and educators in the schools concerned.

We need urgent action to confront the problem. Such action needs to be carefully considered and part of a sustainable strategy not only to contain the symptoms, but also to tackle the underlying causes of social dysfunction and violence.

For this reason SADTU is supporting the call made by the Young Communist League for the Minister of Education to convene an urgent stakeholder summit on school violence and crime. The broad purpose of such a meeting would include:

  • to develop immediate workable responses to the current problems we face in our schools
  • to identify underlying causes of violence and anti-social behaviour in schools and to begin to develop programmes to address these areas in the medium to long term
  • to identify relevant stakeholders – including teacher unions: student, youth and community organizations; school governing bodies; the departments of education and other state agencies such as police and social services; relevant NGOs etc - and to secure their buy-in and commitment to addressing these problems
  • To establish networks and processes to bring to bear the collective weight and wisdom of stakeholders on the problems identified.
  • To act as a springboard for a national campaign in the schools and communities to combat crime and violence, and to secure commitment from all of us to a code of conduct which supports a culture of learning and teaching, and outlaws anti-social behaviour.

As SADTU we believe that such a summit should consider amongst others the following:

  • Existing experience, eg the manual of the Western Cape Education Labour Relations Council Task Team on Safety at Schools. Unfortunately, violence and crime in schools are not new, and we should evaluate past efforts to counter these problems.

  • A staffing formula to ensure that all schools have basic security staff. At present the majority of disadvantaged schools do not have support staff. Recent press reports suggest that learners are being used to perform these functions. This would also provide much needed employment in line with undertakings of the Jobs Summit and Growth and Development Summit.

  • Immediate implementation by the departments of education of previous commitments to physically secure school premises with fencing, lockable doors, alarms etc.

  • Programmes to influence behaviour at school – eg conflict management, counseling, human rights education, sports and cultural activities etc.

  • Programmes to improve the way schools operate – eg leadership and management training, community relations, partnerships with other agencies, identifying and supporting vulnerable learners and children at risk, establishing a safety committee and safety officer.

  • Clarification of clear guidelines in relation to random searching and drugs testing, and the roles of educators, principals and other agencies such as the SAPS.

  • Further input and debate on what to do with disruptive learners. In broad terms SADTU takes the following approach:

  • As far as possible to handle problems within the school. This requires resources (eg so called ‘sin bins’ to allow learners to cool off) and training in counseling, as well as the support of parents and the community;

  • In exceptional cases to refer learners to youth centres with the necessary resources and specialized staff, and a clear mission to rehabilitate and reintegrate such individuals into mainstream schooling. There must be no return to the ‘stout schools’ of the past which further brutalized their inmates.

  • We cannot support the Minister’s proposal to send disruptive learners home to their parents, where in some cases the parents may be part of the problem. In effect this would mean throwing such youngsters into the street, with further dire social consequences. We cannot wish away these problems.

As SADTU we are committed to working with the Minister and all stakeholders to address these challenges. Our members demand nothing less.


SADTU is the largest union in the public service representing nearly two-thirds of teachers with a membership of 230,000, and the second largest union in the country.


CONTACTS:

Thulas Nxesi, General Secretary 082 782 6877

Don Pasquallie, Deputy General Secretary 079 492 4081

Willie Madisha, President 082 783 2967

Jon Lewis, Media Officer 082 567 5628


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