Parents ‘key to root out gangsters in Westbury schools, but they’re not bothered’

Residents of Westbury protest outside the Sophiatown police station. The community is complaining about the lack of police visibility. The residents took to the street after a woman was killed and her 10-year-old child wounded during a gang shooting.
Picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)

Residents of Westbury protest outside the Sophiatown police station. The community is complaining about the lack of police visibility. The residents took to the street after a woman was killed and her 10-year-old child wounded during a gang shooting. Picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)

‘We are afraid of speaking because we may be targeted by the gang members,’ a parent who wanted to remain anonymous said.

The police need more participation from parents to root out gang-related violence in schools in Westbury.

The Social Crime Prevention Unit at Sophiatown police station said yesterday they are ready and equipped to root out gang-related violence in schools and can win the battle – if the parents take responsibility for their children’s actions.

Captain Makwenete Matshaba said parents didn’t speak out when their children are hooked into gangs.

“Without the help of parents, the anti-violence strategy will not yield any results. It requires all stakeholders to play a role in ensuring that policies were effectively implemented,” Matshaba said.

“If the parents work with us, it will be easy to solve gang-related violence in schools, parents don’t seem to be bothered. It is only a few who work with the police and attend meetings. We arrange parental skills programmes with the community, but the attendance is always very poor.”

Violence in the education sector has become a crisis with incidents of stabbings, shootings, gang violence and armed robberies in schools countrywide.

In Westbury, the police recovered knives from various primary school pupils.

“Pupils are an easy target for drug dealers. They hook them with free drugs and when the addiction is killing them, they end up dropping out, joining gangs and end up stealing,” Matshaba said.

Teaching positive values and morals is the way to get school children out of gangs, but they can’t do it without the assistance of parents.

He urged parents to monitor their children’s school bags regularly, engage with teachers and attend meetings.

“There are so many signs to see if these children are involved in gangs. Parents have to monitor their children’s behaviour, the way they dress and the hairstyles and cuts in eyebrows. It all communicate signs of gangsterism.”

Many failed to report their children once they committed crimes at school or in the township. They were either afraid or just want to protect their children.

“When a child is arrested and a parent is called to come to the police station, many don’t even bother to come. They say the police must do whatever they liked about the child,” he said.

For a child to be accepted as a gangster, he must commit crimes, starting with stealing before he or she is promoted.

“Once you kill someone from a rival gang, you are further promoted within the group. Every time a new member commits a crime, there is a mark placed on his body, either on the brow or hand or even a tattoo to show that he is a brave guy.”

A parent from Westbury, who refused to be named, said: “Our children are hooked into gangsterism and drugs, we don’t know what to do.

“We are afraid of speaking because we may be targeted by the gang members,” he said.

The mother of a Grade 5 pupil, Phumzile Mkhwanazi from Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg, another area affected by gangsterism and drug abuse, said she is always scared for her child’s life and safety as some school children in the area are also involved in gangs.

“My girl is not safe at all. Although the school tries to protect the pupils and bring order, these gangsters are very strategic. Sometimes they find pupils with knives in their bags which scared our children,” Mkhwanazi said.

anastasim@citizen.co.za

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