A number of schools across Gauteng carry out ad hoc school searches to ensure learners are safe within their education environment and that illegal substances are kept out of the school system.
Linda Goodenough, Community Development Manager for Fidelity ADT says searches are strictly monitored and are generally conducted in conjunction with Department of Education, Gauteng Department of Community Safety, the school’s local police station, Community Policing Forum, EMPD, and the K9 units.
She says common things the teams look out for include: cigarettes, lighters, matches, dagga packets, dagga crushers; gambling cards; alcohol and e-cigarettes or vapes to prevent any form of substance abuse. Sharp objects like knives, blades, pocket knives are also confiscated. She says during the searches even the school scissors are smelt as it give off a distinctive smell if it has been used for opening a packet of dagga. “Learners are creative in hiding their stash,” she says. “We find some of these substances in the weirdest places like tucked into a school dress hem or blazer hem or even hidden in socks.”
The department works according to an approved plan on school searches for the year. This is followed unless a school raises specific concerns. On average about 10 classes are searched on a morning
Goodenough says the aim is not to catch the learners out and shame them but rather to create a safer and more caring environment for all. “We try and work wherever possible with SANCA on drug and substance abuse awareness. “The reality is if we can just change the life of one person we can start changing a community.” She says the learners are generally always co-operative and a bit scared of the dogs, but they very soon can see that the dogs are so well trained they will not hurt anyone. The sad reality is a number of our kids operate under tremendous pressure from their friends and there is a concerning culture of drug and substance abuse and violence and bullying in many of our schools. Dr Joel Shapiro, Clinical Psychologist at Randburg’s Akeso Crescent Clinic, says that most drug use stems from an underlying emotional problem. “The core trigger for drug use is often an emotional one. A sense of alienation, disconnectedness, loneliness and lack of normalcy arises often in the years following puberty,” says Dr. Shapiro. “These can stem from multiple sources, such as an unstable home environment, family worries, a lack of support from social groups or communities, a lack of acceptance among peers – perceived or real, or even a genetic predisposition towards depression.”
For many parents, receiving a call from the school advising them that their child has been caught comes as a massive shock. “As a community we need to join together and do everything we can to keep our children safe,” concludes Goodenough.