Learner safety causes concern
Local authorities are appealing for calm after reports of alleged abductions outside schools in the Zonnebloem area emerged last week.
Both Woodstock and Cape Town Central police stations have no record of the reported abduction incidents and will continue their patrols to ensure safety in the area.
Western Cape minister of education, Debbie Schäfer revealed in a statement on Wednesday 15 August that two separate incidents of abductions had reportedly taken place in the Zonnebloem area over the past two weeks.
Schäfer says district education officials report that learners are being targeted while travelling to and from school.
“Reports indicate the perpetrators are drugging learners and abducting them, one reporting the involvement of a white van,” she says in the statement.
The department reported the incidents to Cape Town police and the district social worker issued communication to schools in the area, says Schäfer.
The social worker visited both schools to investigate the reported incidents and provide support.
“This is a source of extreme concern. We have not had reports of this happening in any other area, but I would like to urge parents to exercise caution, and inform their children of the dangers of engaging with and of taking any food or beverage from strangers,” she says, adding that she has requested increased police visibility.
Cape Town Central police spokesperson, Captain Ezra October, says police noted the reports and view them in a serious light.
“We are in constant communication with schools. As part of our policing initiatives, patrols are held around schools in the Cape Town area, including Zonnebloem,” says October.
He adds that operations are stepped up in winter to start at 04:00 as learners get to school while it is still dark.
The operations continue in the afternoon after school.
“The police, with other role-players including the scholar patrols (Traffic Services) work towards ensuring safety of learners on a continuous basis.”
He urges people with information about the cited incidents to report them immediately. October calls on learners and parents to be vigilant while police ensure visibility.
Meanwhile, a statement from Woodstock police and the community policing forum (CPF) calls for restraint.
“We want to appeal to our communities to not spread this around as it is already causing havoc among communities in the vicinity of the mentioned area.”
Woodstock Police Station serves Zonnebloem Nest High, Zonnebloem Girls’ and Boys’ Primary and Walmer Primary schools and management and the CPF undertake to continue crime prevention operational duties to ensure learner safety.
CPF acting chairperson, Youssef Kanouni, says: “We have a very good relationship with our schools in the precinct.”
Cape Town Central CPF chairperson, Marc Truss, adds: “We have got to make sure the learners are safe to and from school. But let us get the facts correct.”
Local school managers say they will continue to take safety precautions to ensure the safety of their learners.
Rahmaniyeh Primary School deputy principal, Shireen Jaffer, says parents, teachers and learners have been informed to take extra precaution, especially outside the school premises.
Chapel Street Primary School spokesperson Cherieden Pedro says learners have been warned not to talk to strangers.
Caretakers and transporters of learners as well as ordinary members of the community have been asked to be on the lookout for suspicious-looking people or vehicles in the school’s vicinity.
The Safe Schools call centre can be contacted on 0800 45 46 47 to report incidents and request support, but also for counselling and advice.