A recent spate of break-ins at schools around Gauteng has put the issue of school security firmly in the spotlight.
A shooting incident in February at Edenvale High School left at least two people dead and one injured, while state-of-the-art equipment worth several thousand rands was stolen Menzi Primary, a multi-million rand school in Ekurhuleni. Robbers also struck the Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa Secondary School in Pretoria in January.
“While there should not be much cash kept on a school property there are other high-value items such as tablets and laptops that would make the property a target,” says Charnel Hattingh, National Marketing & Communications Manager at Fidelity ADT.
She says that it is vitally important that schools not only think about how best to secure the property but also to prepare staff and learners on how to react, should an incident occur.
“It’s also important to remember that its not only primary or high schools that are targeted but also smaller nursery schools and home playgroups and creches,” she adds.
Hattingh says perimeter security and entry/exit point security needs to be implemented as a first priority.
“Often schools have sports fields, courts, swimming pools etc that make the area difficult to contain. There are also generally various entrances to the property. Good perimeter security is your first line of defence so call in an expert to assess the property and identify any weak security spots. Employing guards to man the entrances may be the solution. Remember that when employing guards ensure that they are well trained and have been through the necessary screening checks,” she says.
She urges schools to invest in reliable alarm systems and to check these at least once a month. The check needs to include all panic buttons.
“Several panic buttons should be placed around the school – some static buttons such as under desks or on walls and other mobile buttons that are carried by staff.”
She highly recommends that all staff and pupils are educated and regularly reminded of security protocols.
“Run through ‘what if’ scenarios with your staff and do regular drills with the pupils, just as you would a fire drill. While incidents at schools are fairly rare it’s better to be prepared,” she says.
There have also been incidents of hijackings in school car parks as criminals follow parents in.
“Schools operating out of homes – such as playgroups or nursery schools – are especially at risk. Speak to parents about the importance of watching out for any suspicious vehicles following them as they approach the school. Make sure the gate opens and closes quickly and ensure that there is a clear line of sight of the gate from inside the house or front office area. Posting a guard outside the gate during drop-off or pick-up times is a good option,” she concludes.