A meeting called at the Ridge Park College in Overport on Tuesday night to address issues of learner safety was poorly attended, yet this did not deter an all important discussion around the subject. Eight schools in the Mayville community police forum Sector 2 precinct were invited to attend, but only two pitched.

With the recent abduction of Miquel Louw, paranoia around the safety of children has gripped large parts of the community with lots of misinformation making the rounds on various social media platforms in recent weeks.

Ridge Park College educator and meeting organiser, Bilal Mohamed, said that there were many queries raised by parents, and with misinformation circulating on social media, he felt that such a meeting would be important to collectively address the concerns with stakeholders.

Mayville police communications officer and school safety coordinator Sergeant Mohamed Rasool, said that it was important for schools to coordinate strategically in addressing the issues. He said that police were making regular patrols around schools in the morning and afternoons to create visible policing and to monitor the areas.

He said that on some WhatsApp groups old information was sometimes being circulated. “Some stuff posted goes back to 2016. There is a lot of misinformation going around. This needs to be verified before being posted. We are presently running programmes at schools to teach learners about stranger danger, and that is doing well,” said Rasool.

Mayville CPF general secretary, Mohammed Ismail spoke of the need of school governing bodies to action their safety committees. “Safety and security of learners start in the school. This is where the SGB safety committee comes in to initiate programmes and create community partnerships with organisations that can assist with this. It is also important to know who your school safety officer is from the police.

“Children must also be taught how to identify potential threats and immediately report it to the school, or teacher in charge of such safety programmes. While there are no statistics in South Africa to show actual child trafficking cases, it does not mean that children will not be abducted for other reasons.”

Ward 25 and 31 councillors Chris Pappas and Hassan Haniff were equally concerned about the misinformation that quickly spreads on social media. “There is an issue of hysteria around. Crime in general is a problem but social media makes us think that the problem is worse than it actually is. Information must be verified first with legitimate sources before it is circulated,” said Pappas. “Children must be taught how to defend themselves. Participation is important and the community must attend meetings when called.”

Haniff was vociferous in his view that there was no unity that prevailed in communities. “People must know what is happening in their own areas first. We have meetings but nothing happens. People need to be more positive.”

The meeting resolved that schools falling in the sector will initiate a Zello channel with the assistance of eThekwini Secure for immediate communication on any eventualities. A WhatsApp group will also be set up.