Some 4 000 pupils and 100 teachers were locked out of three schools in Lavender Hill by irate parents, who raged against the warring gangs attacking their children on the way to and from school.
Western Cape Education spokesperson Millicent Merton said on Thursday parents locked the gates and prevented staff and pupils at Lavender Hill High School, Hillwood Primary School and Levana Primary School from entering the school grounds.
Teachers who did not want to be named said parents were angry that their children were being pistol-whipped on their way to school and being terrorised by gangsters.
“At one primary school at least 15 pupils, traumatised by the constant sound of gunshots and fear of running the gauntlet on their walk to and from school, had been put off school because they were suffering from severe stress disorder,” a teacher said.
A whole school week had been disrupted, control tests could not be written and the after-school study group for 130 matric pupils for whom the school provided food and transport home could not take place because pupils were too traumatised to attend, the teacher said.
Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rexwana confirmed that three of the four schools in the area had been closed and parents and pupils then marched to Steenberg Police Station to protest for peace.
Police patrols have been stepped up in the area.
Merton said the department had been in contact with SAPS who are “responsible for community safety and crime control and they had indicated that public order policing would be deployed to the area”, while the city had “reportedly deployed the Stabilisation Unit to the area”.
“We are aware of the alleged gang-related shootings taking place in Lavender Hill that are impacting schooling in the area.
“Gangsterism is a broad societal issue and while the Education Department cannot be held solely responsible for it, we can try and minimise its impact in our schools.
“It is important to remember that due to the security measures the WCED has put in place in schools, schools are very often places of refuge when gang violence takes place in the community.
“Often learners report feeling safer at school than they do at home,” said Merton.
She said a request for assistance for pupils travelling to and from schools would be fulfilled by the Safe Schools initiative.