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De Lille debacle

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The fact that the safety at schools has deteriorated to the point that we even need such an initiative is extremely concerning

Patricia De Lille. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

On Friday, the Department of Education in the Northern Cape, together with the South African Police Service, launched the School Safety Implementation Protocol.

What the protocol actually involves is slightly vague but the intention is crystal clear – the aim is to promote safer schools and prevent pupils from becoming involved in criminal activities.

The fact that the safety at schools has deteriorated to the point that we even need such an initiative is extremely concerning.

But, sadly, it’s a stark reality. Almost daily there are reports of pupils violently attacking other pupils and even their teachers, while school property is considered fair game.

Recently large parts of the Sutherland High School was destroyed in a fire. This was the third incident of this type this year.

In one week three incidents of school violence were reported, two involving knives and one a fist fight between girls, at different schools in the Province. At a school in Kimberley, an entire class was held hostage by a pupil armed with what may or may not have been a BB gun and at the beginning of the year a high school pupil was arrested after he allegedly stabbed his teacher to death after blaming him for failing Grade 8.

These are just some of the incidents that made it into the media, no doubt there were many, many more.

The sad reality is, in the words of the MEC for Education, Martha Bartlett, what is happening at schools is a mirror reflection of what is happening in society.

Our kids have become criminals and it’s a reflection on us as a country.

Fingers are pointed in all directions – at parents and communities, and at the authorities.

In the words of police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Risimati Shivuri: “We must acknowledge that we have created a mess. We have allowed children to bully others, disrespect teachers, come late to school and leave the premises before time.”

Let’s me be honest, we are all to blame, not least of all the pupils themselves.

There is a lot of talk today about rights, but very little about responsibilities.

Earlier this week, pupils were unhappy because when they arrived at school at 8am the gates were locked. They accused the school principal of denying them their right to an education.

Excuse me, but since when did school start at 8am and since when did pupils rock up whenever they felt like it? What has happened to following rules and taking action against those who fail to abide by those rules?

Instead we are so busy pussy-footing around our children, ensuring that their rights are not violated, that we have forgotten to teach them that every person, young and old, has equal rights and these too deserve to be respected.

We have developed a generation of young people who believe they are entitled, without teaching them by example that their entitlement comes with responsibilities and consequences.