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Fields of dreams take shape at Mountview High School

UNICEF/SouthAfrica/2008/Schermbrucker
© UNICEF/SouthAfrica/2008/ Schermbrucker
It was smiles all around at Mountview Secondary School at the launch of the Safe and Caring Schools initiative..

DOE and UNICEF launch Safe and Caring Schools Initiative.

Cape Town, 2 February 2008 - It was a cool Saturday morning in Hanover Park, a poor community with a history of drugs and gang-related violence, near Cape Town.  By seven a.m. hundreds of children in crisp school uniforms, representing the 14 primary and secondary schools in the area, had already arrived on the playing fields at Mountview High School.  But this was no ordinary school day.  Today, the school was the host for an important transformation in learning event -- the launch of the Safe and Caring Schools (SCS) (also known as Child-friendly Schools) Initiative, of which an important component is sport for development.

According to Gugu Ndebele, Deputy Director General of Social Cohesion at the National Department of Education, the programme recognizes the critical support and assistance needed by educators and learners and aims to improve school safety and security, infrastructure and other factors that hamper the attainment of quality education for children in South African Schools. 

In 2007, the Minister of Education identified nine schools (one per province) facing huge challenges of safety and security.  With the support of the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP), safety infrastructure and support programmes were provided to these schools. 

All nine schools were equipped with perimeter fences, security lights and gates, security guards, some with hand-held metal detectors. In addition, school management teams and learners participated in training programmes aimed at assisting them in dealing with crime and violence, one of the biggest challenges to learning faced by the students and surrounding communities. 

At Mountview High, the only school in the Western Cape selected for the programme, 26 educators and two administrators attend to the needs of the student population, which ranges from 800 to 950 learners.  The school is surrounded by five primary ‘feeder’ schools in the area framed by the majestic beauty of Table Mountain. 

But the beautiful natural backdrop and the rows of neat suburban homes belie a darker picture of violence, high unemployment, single parent families, burnt-out buildings, graffiti, sexual abuse and gang violence that also plague the Hanover Park.  Still, the children go to school, and last year Mountview proudly achieved 71.4 per cent matric pass rate.

Lifeskills are key to a better tomorrow
 “Our kids have very low self esteem.  Gang behaviour affects the security of the kids,” said Mujahid Salie, a teenaged learner, in making a plea for sustainable support for the school to the audience of peers, educators, parents and officials, said.  “The fences are up by day, but at night, gangs cut holes in them and break them down to enter our school.  The only way to change this is to provide opportunities, including lifeskills for all, making it possible for the community to become a safe environment for kids,” he added.

Other speakers noted the need for all stakeholders to help this school and others in the Hanover Park hub on the long road to ensuring safety and quality education for its learners. “Improving a school in its totality has gained ground in both the industrialized and developing worlds and this is distinct from strengthening individual inputs or processes. It finds expression in many different but related conceptual frameworks.  The Safe and Caring Schools framework is designed to achieve just that – translating the implementation of quality education at the school level where it should happen.  In this context, sport for development is particularly important in ensuring that learners are exposed to key life skills that enable them to make the right choices today for a better life tomorrow ”, said Nadi Albino, Chief of Education at UNICEF. 

UNICEF/SouthAfrica/2008/Schermbrucker
© UNICEF/SouthAfrica/2008/ Schermbrucker
Gugu Ndebele, the Deputy Director General in the Department of Education receiving a football from Archie Benjamin principal of the school.

Lifeskills are key to a better tomorrow
 “Our kids have very low self esteem.  Gang behaviour affects the security of the kids,” said Mujahid Salie, a teenaged learner, in making a plea for sustainable support for the school to the audience of peers, educators, parents and officials, said.  “The fences are up by day, but at night, gangs cut holes in them and break them down to enter our school.  The only way to change this is to provide opportunities, including lifeskills for all, making it possible for the community to become a safe environment for kids,” he added.

Other speakers noted the need for all stakeholders to help this school and others in the Hanover Park hub on the long road to ensuring safety and quality education for its learners. “Improving a school in its totality has gained ground in both the industrialized and developing worlds and this is distinct from strengthening individual inputs or processes. It finds expression in many different but related conceptual frameworks.  The Safe and Caring Schools framework is designed to achieve just that – translating the implementation of quality education at the school level where it should happen.  In this context, sport for development is particularly important in ensuring that learners are exposed to key life skills that enable them to make the right choices today for a better life tomorrow ”, said Nadi Albino, Chief of Education at UNICEF.  

Collective efforts of partners
Marcia Harker, Deputy Director General in the Western Cape Department of Education said, “Mountview is the epicentre of the partnership to create safe schools.”  Today’s launch was attributable to the collective efforts of partners planning and working together with the provincial and national departments of education and the schools over several years in the interest of learners.

 “Schools should be safe and protected places for children to learn and sadly, this is not the case. They are still challenged by crime and violence”, said Gugu Ndebele, keynote speaker at the launch.  “This programme will help parents take ownership of the situation and bring communities on board to help keep schools safe for learners”.  She commended UNICEF on its commitment to partnership, saying the children’s organisation had “walked all the way with us”.  She also thanked SuperSport for its support in helping to “bring back sport and play into the lives of the children, to help promote good health, for social cohesion and conflict resolution.”

And so the games began on the huge playing fields surrounding the Mountview High School.  The air of festivity was palpable and the infamous Cape weather cooperated beautifully.  Music, braais and children at play, parents and students from all 14 schools in the Hanover Park hub were everywhere.  UNICEF supplied a cadre of coaches and trainers from its community based partners Active Education, SCORE, Little Champs and Play Soccer, who planned a fabulous day of sport and recreation for the children.  But the smiling faces of the children said it all.

"What we are hoping to do with this programme, supported by UNICEF and several other sponsors is begin to create environments in schools in South Africa, especially those in our most vulnerable communities that are plagued by violence, an environment where there is peace and security, and positive values for our children, so that they have that opportunity for their potential to be maximised and for all their hopes and aspirations to be realised.   We hope that sport will become a vehicle for young people to express these positive ideals of competing together, but competing in a positive way sharing values of honour and obeying the rules of the game and through this creating healthy bodies, so we have healthy young children," said Education Minister Naledi Pandor, surrounded by children and school officials as she made a quick stop over and walkabout to see the games on the sports field. 

Surveying the playing field full of happy and energetic children, Nariman Khan, Director of the Safe Schools programme in the Provincial Department of Education said. “I am so excited. “When I drive through Hanover Park, I just visualise our learners off the streets, safe and playing games.  I can’t wait to see that happening”, she said.  By all accounts, that dram ins well on its way and is steadily taking shape at  Hanover Park schools.

What is a Safe and Caring school?

 

 

 

 

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