Change the lives of the children in Cape Town:
The Western Cape has been labelled the gang and drug hub of South Africa, says Community Safety MEC Dan Plato. It is estimated that about 60 percent of gang and drug related crimes are committed in the Western Cape, but the province only houses about 10 percent of South Africa’s population.
Due to the endemic nature of gangsterism in Cape Town, children are growing up with family members and friends of the family belonging to gangs. They were exposed to gangs on their way to and from school and grow up in an environment where they are often no alternatives to this violent lifestyle. As a result, the Western Cape education department, in conjunction with other provincial government departments, has been involved in a number of initiatives tackling safety at schools and was continually engaging with communities in an effort to combat gangsterism and crime.
Initiatives include random search and seizure operations at schools, establishing over 100 sport development centres in previously disadvantaged areas, identifying talented hard-working youngsters who were then provided study bursaries, and facilitating meetings between business and recently matriculated youth in order to assist with job opportunities and recruitment.
Irvin Kinnes, who is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Criminality at the University of Cape Town, provided statistics from recent studies. Kinnes said in 2011 there was a known gang presence at 31 schools in the Western Cape and 63 gang shootings took place on school premises last year.
In communities where gangsterism is so prevalent, even children who want nothing to do with gangs are often marked by rival gangs simply because they lived in a particular area. A culture of gangsterism led to young men being forced to show they are “unafraid to challenge or be challenged” and develop machismo and bravado. The problem in some of our communities are a mix of the historic, social, economic and the criminal. In order confront these issues, we must have a ‘Whole of Society’ approach and we must apply a battery of resources, from social to financial interventions.
The structural problems of social and economic inequality are being tackled through resource-allocation, redress, time and dedication. In order to address the situation we need to stop focusing on the gangs and focus on developing and providing opportunities for the youth.
This means proper funding for NGOs working with youth, providing extra mural activities and sports at the schools, bringing in counsellors and volunteers in Cape Town to motivate and work hand in hand with students, showing them an alternative lifestyle.
Make a difference to the children’s lives.