WINDHOEK - Following the launching of the National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF), Education, Arts and Culture Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa has condemned the ongoing violence in schools.
“Incidences of violence in our schools and in our nation is concerning and we all must stand together in order to annihilate these acts,” she noted.
More than 40 pupils from the Ella du Plessis Secondary School in Khomasdal in Windhoek were sent home earlier following a police raid in which an assortment of weapons and alcohol was confiscated from them.
Classes at the school were halted when about six uniformed police officers were called to the school and ordered all the pupils into their classrooms for body searches.
At the time, the police confiscated knives, screwdrivers and sharp pieces of mirrors.
The minister said the ministry is currently busy reviewing its Education Act, which is a progressive rights-based law that will be tabled in parliament.
Therefore, she noted, NSSF supports this rights-based approach in ensuring that no child is denied the right to education due to violent and unsafe school circumstances.
However, she maintained that safe schools do not happen overnight, emphasising that change takes place step by step.
The NSSF identifies seven standards for developing and maintaining a safe school.
It outlined the first step towards school safety, saying schools have to establish the foundation to have a starting point from which to build.
By identifying the problem areas and difficulties, the minister says the school can plan for interventions and monitor its progress.
Further, she said a second standard is school-friendly infrastructure, followed by well-defined policies, reporting and referral procedures.
“The NSSF points to the importance of effective prevention of and response to violence, self-harm and substance abuse in schools,” Hanse-Himarwa said.
According to her, educational outcomes are dependent on a healthy, happy and safe learner.
“A sick child cannot acquire; a depressed child cannot assimilate and a scared child cannot participate. The ministry has a robust framework for quality assurance and monitoring and evaluation that looks towards the holistic development of our learners, namely the national standards and key performance indicators,” she said.
She explained that all programmes developed by the ministry strive to attain these standards in their various incarnations and NSSF is one of them, with all of the standards of contributing towards the national standards.
The NSSF falls under the umbrella of the Integrated School Health Programme which Namibia has been implementing in various forms since independence.
The Integrated School Health Programme goes beyond the physical health of the learner, in that it includes the holistic wellbeing of the individual learner and educator, meaning that the school environment should be a safe and conducive learning environment for learners to flourish. The NSSF was designed to support and enhance the implementation of the Integrated School Health Programme.
The NSSF was developed jointly by the ministry and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Hanse-Himarwa said the process of developing NSSF was highly consultative with extensive focus group discussions being held with children, parents, teachers and school management, as well as key line ministries and civil society - all of them stakeholders who have a role to play in the implementation of the NSSF.
NSSF is intended to be used at national, regional and school levels.
At national and regional level, it will be used as a policy document, while in schools it will be used as a practical tool to guide teachers and other school personnel on how to promote safe and supportive school communities. NSSF is applicable to all Namibian learners as every child has the right to safety and protection.
A copy of NSSF will be dispatched to each and every school, along with supplementary materials for immediate implementation.