Teach ‘stranger danger’

Children should be taught about “stranger danger” and not to accept any free food, drinks, money or objects from strangers, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has warned.

This follows the attempted abduction of a nine-year-old in Rylands last Wednesday, only a week after the WCED confirmed two separate abductions in Zonnebloem.

Sergeant Zita Norman, Athlone police spokesperson, says in the Rylands incident three unknown men were taking photos of the child and her friends who were on their way home from school last Wednesday.

One of the men tried to grab the child’s arm to get her into their Combi, but the child kicked the man and then ran away with her friends.

She then phoned her father who reported the incident to the police, says Norman.

In the Zonnebloem incidents learners from two different schools were allegedly abducted, drugged and later dropped off elsewhere in the city, according a letter issued to all schools by the WCED.

People’s Post last week reported in its Atlantic Seaboard/City and Woodstock/Maitland editions that the provincial minister of education, Debbie Schäfer, had confirmed these abductions in statement, saying learners are being targeted while travelling to and from school (“Learner safety causes concern”, People’s Post, 21 August­).

In his letter to the schools, WCED head of department Brian Schreuder reminds schools to “review and update their safety policies, particularly around access control, and to ensure that procedures are in place to deal with reported abduction cases”.

He adds that while the safety of learners outside the school gates remains beyond their control, they can ensure that there are safety measures in place at dismissal time.

“Schools should ensure that learners are aware of ‘stranger danger’. While we do not want to frighten them, they must know that they should be wary and run away if any stranger approaches them,” he says.

In a separate incident, concerned parents from Surrey Estate last week contacted People’s Post after a man and a woman, allegedly posing as photographers from a local newspaper, were taking photos, without the parents’ consent, of children in a park last Sunday.

People’s Post adheres to the South African Press Code which states: (8.1.1.) no child shall be interviewed, photographed or identified without the consent of a legal guardian or of a similarly responsible adult and the child.

Parents are urged to inform their children not to let anyone photograph them without first asking the adult responsible for their care at the time.

All incidents must be reported to the police on 10111 as well as the Safe Schools call centre on 0800 45 46 47.

Anyone with information about the abduction attempt in Rylands are urged to call Athlone police on 021 697 9238/39.