Learners try to leave gangsters behind at Khayelitsha school

| Pharie Sefali
Learners who are part of gangsterism in schools. Photo by Pharie Sefali.

A year ago, Bulumko High School in Khayelitsha made the news when learners were afraid to go to classes because of gang fights that were happening inside the school and in the surrounding area.

According to the school principal, Bernard Hlongwane, this year the gang issue at the school has faded away. He said that the school is no longer affected by gangsterism, but there is a big problem with vandalism. He said that among other things, people break windows and steal bulbs, intercoms and even doors.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) agreed that the school is currently facing a vandalism problem. A block of classes has no electricity due to cable theft.

Lindokuhle Ntshongolo, a member of the SRC, said that some of the people who vandalised the school are learners themselves. He said that gangsterism still happens in the school, even though the fighting stays mostly outside.

“When the gangs fight during school hours, we as learners don’t pay attention to them because we got used to it. The fights became a norm. So now, they rarely fight because none of the learners get excited when they do,” said Ntshongolo.

Ntshongolo also said that some learners are not gangsters but carry weapons to the school because they want to protect themselves.

“Learners come from different areas in Khayelitsha, and they are not safe. Some learners carry knives or other weapons for protection from gangsters outside the school,” said Ntshongolo.

According SRC president Zizikazi Sofika, those gangs who attack the school are ex-school learners who dropped out or gang members from the neighborhood who have enemies at the school.

“We as learners are the ones who start problems at our school. Some learners vandalise the schools because they are bored. The dropouts influence those who are still at school. The learners become spies for them and give information about the school and the new equipment the school has; that is how the vandalism starts.”

Siyamankela Mehle, vice president of the SRC, also said that some learners are at school to spy not study.

A 19-year-old offender from Khayelitsha who is currently on trial at Pollsmoor prison admitted that he used to go to Bulumko and disrupt the school for no good reason. He said that sometimes he went to attack his enemies and didn’t care if it was during school hours. He never attended Bulumko, but he had ways to get into the school.

Esethu Jezile, a member of the SRC, said that there were learners at school who carried weapons and hid them in the girls’ toilets because these were not searched as often as the boys’ toilets.

Sofika said they are working very hard to bring back the dignity of the school. The SRC has created a group that deals with issues that learners experience at school and in society. She said there are programmes at school done by NGOs that assist in dealing with social issues.

Ntshongolo said gangs give a sense of belonging. The question he asks is that if people stop someone from being a gangster, what are the alternatives offered to the gangster lifestyle?

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