Durban High School will be launching the safer schools project, the first in a series of day-long seminars to investigate ways of making schools
a safer place for high school learners, on Friday, 10 May from 8am.

Educators, governing bodies, Representative Council of Learners members and other stakeholders have long been grappling with fault-lines in typical school systems and structures and are looking at starting conversations around improved ways of safe-guarding learners. Working towards achieving, this Durban High School, the Governing Body Foundation, The Guardian and DigiComms have decided on a series of seminars considering different areas of concern: bullying, inappropriate educator, learner relations, ‘blessers’, drugs, gangs, social media protocols and infrastructure, among others.

The inaugural seminar will aim to prioritise some of these areas of concern, and as a starting point, will begin the conversation with ‘Breaking the Code of Silence’.

“It is clear that there are a wide range of social ills that are enabled in South African schools due to the cultures of silence that we inadvertently create and maintain. In many schools, silence is part of the informal ‘Code of Conduct’ and this needs to be broken to make our schools a safer place for all law-abiding citizens,” said Marc Hardwick, founder and managing director of The Guardian. Due to their expertise in this field, The Guardian has been invited to partner with the association for this seminar.

To understand this complex topic, a carefully-selected panel of speakers and keynotes have been identified. These include SAMSOSA consultant Luke Lamprecht who will examine how the education system inadvertently creates a culture of silence in our institutions and what we can do to break it. Lamprecht has published a number of insightful articles analysing the Parktown Boys’ High case.

Previous head of Clinical Psychology at UCT, Terence Dowdall will unpack reasons why the learner will not speak out and what we can do to help them. The Guardian’s Marc Hardwick will explain psychological guidelines and legal rules in regards to handling disclosure as a staff member or adult.

There will participative panel discussions of experts talking about current challenges to learner safety and disclosure and safe schools’ best practice. Panellists include SAMSOSA consultant Luke Lamprecht, organisational culture and change management expert, Rajen Reddy; CEO of the Governing Body Foundation Dr. Anthea Cereseto, managing director of The Guardian, Marc Hardwick, a representative of the Child Protection Unit and a senior public prosecutor for crimes against children, Val Melis.

There will be personal testimonies including survivor Dr Graham Bell and a former governing body chairman, Justin Paul. After lunch, there will be workshops addressing the plague of the “blessers” culture in SA schools, and safeguarding learners when using social media.

At the seminar, there will be information exhibits hosted by various specialist service providers, NGOs, and experts in the field. The seminar willbe hosted by Durban High School. “Our children are becoming more vulnerable as the lines of acceptable social norms and behaviours become more blurred in these tumultuous times. This inaugural seminar has come out of many conversations among educators and child-care professionals over a long period of time.

“We at DHS wanted to get all concerned parties together into one room to jointly and proactively craft a way forward for us as educators and school managements to make schools safer for our learners. Also, for us individually to better understand the complexities of what we are
up against,” says DHS headmaster, Tony Pinheiro.

For more information and to book your place, contact registration@safeschoolguide.co.za.