Monday, 11 September 2006

Now robbers target primary school pupils

Willem Steenkamp

September 10 2006 at 12:19PM

A spate of armed robberies on primary school children at schools in Table View and Milnerton has sparked an emergency meeting between headmasters and law enforcement agencies.

Some schools have sent out urgent warning letters to parents, suggesting they take special care.

A deputy headmaster, who preferred not to be named, said the robberies of defenceless children showed that criminals would stop at nothing.

"One of our primary school children had a gun held to his throat and had his watch and pocket money stolen, while in another incident a mere 100m from our school, two men accosted and robbed another of our primary school children.

"While the other children saw the two men walking on either side of the pupil, they did not realise that the pupil was being robbed by the armed men. We are very, very concerned. These attacks are directed at the children in our community.

"We are aware that similar attacks have taken place at other schools in our community and also in Milnerton.

We have handed all the information on the the attacks at our school to the local police forum which is setting up an emergency meeting with the police where headmasters and other senior teachers will raise their concerns.

"We are all hoping to put together an effective plan to ensure the safety of the children at our schools."

Jannie Beirowski, chairman of the Table View police forum, said the attacks were of great concern. "There have been attacks on children outside Blouberg Ridge Primary, Parklands Primary and Blouberg-rand High, and we have also had reports of similar incidents near schools in Milnerton.

"Two men have already been arrested in connection with one of the attacks, while we are working closely with five armed-response companies which have made some of their guards available to schools.

I have also approached the provincial Department of Safety and Security to inform them of the incidents in our area and to obtain some assistance."

Beirowski said because of the construction boom in the area, scores of unemployed and unskilled workers were around in the hope of finding work. This had led to an increase in criminal activities.

"Sadly we also have other social problems. Nowadays both parents usually work and only see their children at breakfast and supper. This means more and more children have to take on responsibilities of adults. They are very much on their own.

"The recent attacks on children at primary school level is a shocking development and of great concern. We are hoping to address these and other problems when we have the emergency meeting with the headmasters and local police on Monday.

"We also call on parents to allow their children to give evidence in court when we apprehend the robbers.

"Otherwise it is difficult to prosecute and the criminals walk free."

Beirowski said some schools were using Bambanani volunteers to patrol the streets near schools.

Gertjie Witbooi, spokesperson in the office of Western Cape Education MEC Cameron Dugmore, said the ministry was "extremely concerned" about the incidence of crime around schools and against children.

"We call on anyone who identifies a threat or sees an attack to immediately contact our Safe Schools number at 0800 454647.

"However, we are concerned about these criminal attacks on our school children outside the safety of schools," Witbooi said.

This article was originally published on page 3 of Cape Argus on September 10, 2006


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