Education department has a plan to deal with pupil violence

While aiming to avoid creating “a militarised school atmosphere”, the department of basic education has swung into action to improve teacher training to deal with school violence effectively, according to national director for school safety Paseka Njobe.

This comes in the aftermath of two shocking incidents last week: in the North West town of Zeerust, Ramotshere Secondary School teacher Gadimang Mokolobate was stabbed to death in class by a pupil; at Eldorado Park Secondary School, south of Johannesburg, a pupil pointed a gun at a teacher.

“Due to these two incidents, [this week] we will convene a stakeholder meeting to be attended by school governing bodies, parents, pupils and teachers to discuss and rollout an intervention strategy to address the scourge of violence.

“We have realised that there is a gap in teacher training on how to deal effectively with violence in schools, which requires a broader strategy.

“We will no longer be incident- or issue-based by being reactive when something happens. Teachers have to be empowered with tools on how to deal with the situation,” added Njobe.

He said the department had signed a protocol with the police for officers to be available whenever required to patrol or search for drugs and weapons in schools. The department did not want to have police officers stationed in each school on a daily basis “because we do not want to create a militarised atmosphere”.

He said each school was governed on the basis of a code of conduct, teachers had “an elementary training” and safety committees had been established.

The department, said Njobe, administered a countrywide total of 12 million pupils and 25 670 schools.

“While every school is linked to a police station, we never thought we would have to send teachers for self-defence training.

“Each school principal has a priority line to the police for when there is trouble. They can drive past the school or conduct a search and seizure operation.

“But we would not like them to be permanently stationed in schools. It has to be within reason,” Njobe said.

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