Activists launch safety plan for Gugulethu school


Night patrols, fencing, keep vandals away

Photo of people at desks in a garage
Members of the Movement for Change and Social Justice, which operates from this garage in Gugulethu, launched a safety plan for Nobantu Primary School. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

Used condoms, empty beer bottles and weed butts in the school yard, vandalism and frequent break-ins plagued Nobantu Primary School in Gugulethu. But a safety initiative launched by activists in the area has made the school much safer.

Activist Mandla Majola, founder of the Movement for Change and Social Justice (MCSJ), visited the school in 2018, looking for a place to hold meetings. He met principal Nomsa Bam and the school governing body, who agreed to let the organisation hold meetings at the school – and asked for help in return.

MCSJ, which brings together members of Treatment Action Campaign, Sonke Gender Justice, the Parent Centre, and Grassroots Soccer, operates from the garage of a house in Gugulethu. The organisation focuses on men’s health, and specifically on why men, including those with HIV, do not use clinic services.

The MCSJ also tries to improve safety for the Gugulethu community.

When Majola visited Nobantu Primary, the school authorities set out the problems facing the school: vandalism, the damaged school fence, and trespassers using the school’s free Wi-Fi. The school turned the Wi-Fi off at night but, said Majola, vandals wrote a warning on the school wall that vandalism would continue until the free Wi-Fi was turned back on.

“We took it upon ourselves to keep the school safe. And we started a sort of security system, where our members would take turns patrolling the school grounds at different times during the night. We used members’ money to fix the fencing and we got some equipment donated like flashlights, walkie-talkies, whistles and bibs.”

Members still patrol the grounds, some at night and some in the early hours of the morning.

“The school has become safer,” said Majola. The initiative had also attracted new members to the MCSJ, he said.

Before the MCSJ put up a fence, said Bam, people from outside the school would come into the yard to drink and smoke. She also said the school has become safer.

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