School works to root out safety ‘grey area’

Principal Andre Engel from the Wesley Practising School speaks to parents at the school meeting.

The principal of the Wesley Practising School in Salt River met with parents on Tuesday to address safety fears after a man boarded a school taxi and robbed two pupils last week.

At the time, rumours on social media said the robbery was another attempted kidnapping, but police ruled that out. ( “Wesley pupils robbed in taxi,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, September 13).

Principal Andre Engel, said it was important to eliminate the “grey” area, when pupils were in transit before and after school hours.

He said some pupils arrived 30 minutes before the school started, which left them unsupervised until the caretaker opened the school.

He was also concerned that pupils walked home or to public transport centres alone.

Mr Engel said it was hard for the school to contact parents during an emergency. Some pupils stayed far from school and the transportation they used might not always be on time and reliable, with the result that pupils sometimes waited over an hour at school for their transport to come.

The school, he said, had changed its visitor policy: anyone visiting the school now had to go to reception where they would receive a visitor’s sticker.

There were plans to train older pupils to run scholar patrols at the busy Dryden Street.

Woodstock police had visited the school to inform pupils about the dangers of talking to or accepting anything from strangers.

Mr Engel said the school didn’t have the money to hire a full-time security or install CCTV cameras.

He said parents should inform the school immediately if their child was to be absent.

The school would also notify parents if their child was waiting too long after school for transport.

School parent Ncumisa Ncama said parents should get to know each other and build a support network. That might also be a way to get more parents involved with school activities. A WhatsApp group of parents with children in the same grade could also help.

The school caters for pupils from Grade R to Grade 7 and has a single class for each grade.

School parent Jeff Mele was glad pupils had a chance to give input”so whatever is going to be implemented by the school will be a collaboration between school and parents”.

Ralph van der Brock, a member of the Salt River Business Improvement district (SRBID) said they would post some of their staff with high-visibility jackets near the school during peak times. The SRBID also had CCTV cameras that could keep watch over the school precinct in the morning and afternoon.