Newspaper clipping – The Cape Argus – 10 September 2008

Safe Schools success boosts pupil pride

By Nomganesi Mbiza and Aanne Simpson

Mount View High School in Hanover Park is being hailed as proof that the Safe Schools Project can turn around “problem” schools, with special measures there boosting not only pupil pride, but also changing behaviour among the teenagers.

Principal Archie Benjamin said he used to have nightmares about the state in which he would find his school after weekends and holidays – but now things had been turned around.

Thanks to the national education department project, the school now has CCTV cameras, a perimeter fence, metal detectors, six unarmed guards and an alarm system. Situated in an area where gangs, drugs and violence are endemic, Mount View was previously plagued by vandalism and break-ins. But for a year now, there has not been a single incident.

Benjamin, who has been at the school for 30 years, told the Cape Argus:
“We used to have nightmares at weekends and during school holidays because we didn’t know what state we would find the school in when we got back.”

Thanks to the programme, pupils now felt respect for their school, and interaction between pupils and drug dealers had ceased on school property. Firdaus Omar, Mount View’s safety officer, said the cameras were not only used to monitor problem behaviour, but also to reward pupils and help keep them motivated.
“When a learner does something good, like refusing to smoke on the school grounds, we call that person and reward them,” she explained.

There were, however, still concerns about how pupils behaved outside the school premises.
“When they are outside the school grounds we don’t have control over their behaviour, but the school has programmes about avoiding violence and drugs,” she said.

Even the pupils themselves were happy with the changes at their school. Pupil Donna-Lee Steers said:
“We don’t have to worry about things like what’s happening, so we can focus on our studies.”

Another pupil, Kim Booysen, said drug dealers used to approach pupils to sell them drugs.
“They used to come to us and say negative stuff, but with the new fence they can’t get near us,” she said.

The Safe Schools Project is a national initiative by the Education Department to promote safety at schools in high-risk crime areas. Mount View High was selected as one of the pilot schools across the nine provinces. The project’s Nariman Khan said that while increased security measures were important, pupil and community involvement were essential to assure success.
“Mount View High is successful. But the development and reform of a community does not happen overnight,” she said, adding that plenty more input was needed for Hanover Park generally.

Aside from being part of this national initiative, Mount View is also part of a provincial project involving 109 high-risk schools. Khan explained that 60 of these 109 were selected for a pilot programme in which CCTV was installed to test whether it had the effect of significantly reducing crime.