Safer Schools Forum is another platform to build our Human Rights Culture in schools

While I was travelling to Blouvlei LSEN school for our Safer Schools Forum Meeting, I listened to Ashraf Garda’s talk show on SAFM. Today the topic was about the lack of access to clean drinking water to about 11% or 1.4 million households in South Africa. How frightening, I think. What an abomination.  Ashraf asked whether this was a downward or upward trend. Strangely, none of the guests really tackled this key question.

During March we seem to be particularly wired to grapple with human rights issues. 21 March is the day we celebrate Human Rights Day.  My mind drifted to our staff forum this past Friday where we had our Human Rights Day seminar. The Human Rights Commission and DDP representatives gave us an overview of their role to help build and empower people to enjoy their human rights. 

 Yes, we are all acutely aware that we have to amplify our knowledge about human rights AND we have to learn how to ensure that we do not infringe on the rights of others.  This mammoth mission plays itself out at our schools where teachers have to champion the human rights cause. Today our Safer schools meeting is all about strengthening our resolve to provide safe, secure schools for our learners and teachers. 

Brian Jeftha, our Safe Schools Head at MSED and the various Signage boards
Today again, our focus was on how to fortify our structures – ensuring the visuals, the billboards are in place to remind all those who enter our schools that schools are sacred places. That schools are centres of learning, havens where we do not want drugs, guns, violent people, destructive elements and all those degrading, dehumanizing elements to manifest themselves.  Also, again we were reminded that learners are our treasures – our hope for the future – and thus we have to ensure that we have the most conducive, empowering safety and security frameworks in place to ensure that nation-building happens. It is not easy given that teachers are often at the receiving end of all the manifestations of our broken, angry communities.
As I watch our colleagues engage around issues of safety and security I am filled with warmth. In spite of reeling under the tremendous pressure of a hectic term one which is drawing to a close, they are still upbeat and willing to share their knowledge and their resources. There is a comraderie that can only exist when there is an understanding of their own humanity. Without any fanfare, Ivor, Hilton and Deon - the chairpersons of the three regional safe schools clusters have created their own circles where the drumbeats of progress fill the air.

Dynamic package: Rowan and Astrid : our Arts Festival Project Managers
Below From left clockwise : Cassy ( Head of Steenberg Primary); Nikki ( educator at Steenberg); Vaughan ( Deputy Principal: Harmony); Leonard Hendricks ( Head of Cafda School of Skills)
One of the highlights of the meeting is the discussion on the 2-day Arts and Cultural Festival that will be hosted by the circuit. The Arts and Cultural Festival Project leaders are Rowan and Astrid, two teachers from Square Hill Primary school. They had already held their first meeting where only 6 schools showed up, yet they see this as indicative of the baby steps we have to take when we are on a learning curve; when we learn how to build our circuit community. Rowan shares passionately how he started a dance group who now regularly features at Artscape’s School Festival and who will be travelling for the 6th time to Malaysia. Our children are talented, Rowan says, and they just need a platform.  We need to consider a classy venue too, he says. We need to expose our learners and our parents to the possibilities. We need to see the Festival as a culmination of broad-based, arts, sports and cultural mass participation programmes at our school, he continues.  Our learners are waiting for us to create such spaces for them. Wow, powerful words from a teacher who walks his talk! And Astrid confirms everything Rowan says because she believes in using the Arts, sports and cultural opportunities as a base for learners to soar. 
Lavender Hill Safe Schools cluster. Clockwise : Malcolm Philand ( Lavender Hill High); Greg - hidden ( Deputy Head: Zerilda Park); Sideeqa ( Head: Capricorn Primary ); Mark ( Admin: Hillwood); Ivor ( Head: Levana); Farida ( Deputy Head: Levana)

Retreat Cluster. Left Clockwise: Maureen ( Head: Blouvlei LSEN); Nurse (Blouvlei LSEN); Deon ( Deputy Principal: Delta); John ( Educator: Lourier); Leonard ( Head: Cafda SOS); Educator at St Mary's; Nimrod ( HOD: Crestway); Teresa ( Head: St Mary's); Mr Lotz ( Educator: Crestway); Lavinia (Head: Square Hill)
 Colleagues of such calibre keep  me on my toes; this is the kind of Ubuntu behaviour that drives me into deeper reflective states. What, I ask myself, can I do better to help my colleagues even more? What is becoming more evident is that we need to build these kinds of learning communities, spaces where you can draw on the strength of others when life becomes overwhelming. 


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