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Gauteng to deploy armed guards at high-risk schools in response to alarming violence, gangsterism and bullying

Gauteng to deploy armed guards at high-risk schools in response to alarming violence, gangsterism and bullying
Illustrative image | Sources: Leila Dougan | EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook | Unsplash

The Gauteng government will implement new security measures, including deploying armed guards and installing cameras at the province’s most dangerous schools. Not everyone is convinced it’s the right move.

Gauteng’s Department of Education is beefing up security at schools beset by lawlessness, a move that has left stakeholders divided.

The department said the drastic security measures were to tackle rampant violence, gangsterism, bullying and substance abuse by learners.

“These continue to be a matter of concern to the department,” said Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona.

“Some of our schools are best characterised as war zones, and learners, educators and staff members do not feel safe.”

Speaking at Sizwe High School in Germiston, Ekurhuleni, last week, Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane said the security measures would include deploying armed security guards and installing CCTV cameras, panic buttons and metal detectors.

Chiloane said 75 schools had been earmarked for prioritisation in the school safety programme, named “Operation Kgutla Molao”. The 75 schools are among 245 in Gauteng that have been deemed high-risk.

In a response to questions in the provincial legislature from Democratic Alliance shadow education MEC Khume Ramulifho in March, the provincial department listed alarming incidents of violence at Gauteng schools.

Chiloane said that in the last five years, seven learners, one teacher and one principal had been killed at eight schools.

He said in that period there had been six incidents of learner-on-teacher violence and four incidents of teacher-on-learner violence. There were 45 incidents of learner-on-learner violence and 26 incidents linked to gangsterism. Four learners were killed by “outsiders”.

There were 40 stabbing incidents, 10 shootings involving teachers and learners, and 16 incidents involving other violent crimes.

All these cases yielded only one known conviction.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng officials intend to beef up school security after Grade 10 pupil is killed at Geluksdal Secondary

Concerns over guards

The decision to beef up security at schools, especially the deployment of armed guards, has drawn contrasting reactions.

Paul Sauer, the vice-president of the teachers’ union Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie, said the organisation was not in favour of deploying armed guards. He said he supported having low-key security guards for access control and disciplinary issues.

“Armed guards will be an extra attraction to unwanted elements. To implement armed guards at schools will only strengthen the violence trend that is happening in certain communities,” Sauer said.

However, education activist Hendrick Makaneta believes, “The deployment of armed guards at high-risk schools is necessary.

“There is no doubt that crime is very high in the country and unless we deal with acts of criminality in the schooling system, we may find it difficult to defeat it in the broader society at large.”  

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) CEO Gaylin Bowles said the deployment of armed security guards was necessary at certain schools to mitigate violence, gangsterism and burglaries.  

He was, however, not entirely comfortable with the operation of armed guards during the day. “Maybe at night,” Bowles said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Drugs, gangs and pangas — the Soweto high school beset by violence and lawlessness

Daily Maverick asked some of the stakeholders whether they thought the presence of armed guards at schools would cause anxiety in learners.

“When any of us walk into an area where an ATM is being serviced, with armed guards, or when a cash-in-transit vehicle is close to you, you immediately associate it with a higher level of danger for yourself and change your path since it is an attraction for a robbery that is maybe accompanied by explicit violence,” Sauer said.  

“The heightened anxiety level in learners will most possibly be escalated, especially where learners have been exposed to any violent acts.”  

Makaneta concurred. 

“The presence of armed guards will certainly create great anxiety among learners. What is important is to take the learners into confidence by explaining the importance of search operations by law enforcement officers such as police, which is in the best interest of the general wellbeing and safety of all learners,” Makaneta said. 


Regarding concerns that the CCTV cameras might violate the privacy of learners, teachers and visitors, Makaneta said there were exceptions to the right to privacy in such cases.

“The installation of CCTV cameras does infringe on the right to privacy. But at the same time, section 36 of the Constitution … dictates that the rights in the Bill of Rights can be limited if doing so is reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society,’’ Makaneta said, stressing the balance between the right to privacy and the right to safety. 

Naptosa’s Bowles said the technology should be seen for its primary purpose — the safety of teachers and learners.

The Department of Education’s Mabona said consultation with stakeholders on the implementation of the extra security measures was ongoing.

“Consultation with all necessary stakeholders is the cornerstone of this school safety programme.

“Operation Kgutla Molao is one of the comprehensive interventions outlined within the Gauteng School Safety Action Plan, aimed at reducing incidents of violence, bullying, suicide, substance abuse and sexual harassment at schools. 

“Installation of CCTV cameras will assist this process and, as such, we do not anticipate interference with privacy. Parents at schools which have benefitted from such installations are very happy and satisfied,” Mabona said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Parents call for drastic measures to combat rising violence in Gauteng schools

Makaneta said, “The deployment of armed guards in schools tells the story of a troubled nation that is often held at ransom by criminals. 

“We know that a school is a reflection of the community it serves and in South Africa, in many a community, violence is at the doorstep of learners and in the streets they live in.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Armed Guards at schools – this can just go so wrong in so many instances. “Guards” in the South African context is a person who spent 3 weeks learning how to be presentable, and shot 10 shots with a pistol, to obtain their “armed” qualification.
    Placing these people in a space where they may have to defend their weapon from being taken by gang-members not shy to kill, is making them a target, even worse than the teams trying to protect cash on the roads.
    I don’t know what the answer is, but “armed” guards will lead to deaths…

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    One more step towards militarising Lesufi’s Gauteng. Viva, ANC, Viva! Not even SAs will risk a visit, why would any international tourist? Next, you’ll be building a wall around the province, and guess which ANC cadre will win the tender!

  • ashley says:

    The introduction of police in schools and all the corresponding technologies of the prison industrial complex (surveillance cameras, metal detectors, panic buttons etc.) will not lead to safety in schools. In fact, these technologies have the potential to increase the risk of violence at school and can generate further harms by stigmatising young people of colour. None of these technologies, costly as they are, attend to the underlying (and less visible) structural, systemic and symbolic violence which begets the visible violence in which the system attempts to intervene. We should trouble the spending of money on policing and militarisation of schools, within a context where state budgets for education are grossly inadequate and where the large majority of public schools do not have what is needed. Schools need more teachers, more specialised places of learning, more professional support staff, more books, and working toilets…once we have exhausted the 1001 ways in which schools can be assisted, and once we attend to the several barriers to meaningful participation in society, there may be no need for ‘quick-fix’ solutions that will pad the pockets of enterprises which seek to profit from the pain of socially excluded youth. Why is more policing and surveillance being taken as a first option?

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