Learning about safety

August 2003 Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection

What used to happen at Manenberg School in the Western Cape reads like a police station’s entire crime file; the bad news scooped many a front page and the school was certainly having an unbalanced dose of hard times. It was serious, it affected everyone detrimentally and something had to be done to change the situation.

Gangsters would enter the school premises and threaten the students and teachers. On several occasions, the entire school had to be dismissed early because of gunfire exchange by gangsters who used the school as a thoroughfare. Robberies were commonplace and both student's and teacher's personal items were stolen.

The fact that the school was such a hotbed of criminal activity prevented the governing body from investing in better equipment and computers for fear of it being looted at any time. Drugs and alcohol peddling and consumption was a regular feature amongst the scholars, vandalism at the school included smashed window panes, broken door handles; gang-related messages in graffiti made up most of the wall decoration. Teachers needed counselling for trauma and students did not bother to turn up, such were the harrowing circumstances of trying to gain an education. The list went on and on.

The school, quite simply, now had to be made safe and secure for pupils and educators alike. The school buildings had to be safeguarded night and day; thugs, vandals, thieves and gangsters had to be kept out at all times and an immediate response system to security emergency was needed round the clock. The solution had to be cost-effective with a long life and maximum durability.

The solution

In accordance with the Western Cape Education Department's guidelines and, with the assistance of Fang - a South African deterrent and detection specialist - and local security contractors, Bekaert Bastion moved in to tackle the problem and design the solution as a pilot security project for schools.

The high security anti-vandal mesh system for the perimeter fence was donated by Bekaert Bastion for the pilot project. The fence is anti-climb, cannot be cut and was erected around the entire school property. An adjustable high and low voltage deterrent and detection system was integrated within the structure. An access control system, including an anti-vandal intercom, which is monitored by video cameras at various points in the school and from the principal's office, was installed. Armed response, linked to the detection system, guarantees a maximum of 10 minutes' response time and a management system for the provincial management body completed the solution.

Alarming results

The difference the alarmed fence has made is alarming in itself. The physical environment can be better controlled and the school could be enhanced without the fear that outsiders would destroy any improvements to the buildings. Unauthorised entry to the school premises has been eliminated altogether and alleged gangsters have all but disappeared from the school's daily life. Vandalism and robbery have been stopped.

Not only has the crime been tackled head on but the new security at the school has brought with it other benefits too - and they are important benefits, particularly to the scholars. Pupil absence and late-coming has been reduced and fuller classes have been reported across the entire school day. A general and reassuring calmness has descended upon both scholars and teachers so that the real business of education at school can be the main focus. In the two years after the fence was erected attendance increased by 25% and, of course, better attendance leads to improved results - the number of students passing their matric exam also rose by around 20%.

Another main benefit derived from making the school secure has meant that they can invest and receive equipment from private and business donors. Last year, an Internet café with nine computers, a television and video recorder were installed, together with a private counselling room; the donation was equal to an investment of around R90 000 and such large donations had previously only been dreamed of because of the high risk of their theft prior to the fence's erection.

One simple security solution has changed life at Manenberg High and transformed the school into one that can now be justifiably proud of its education achievements. As Bekaert Bastion's managing director, Michael Rodenburg, adds: "In an ideal world, every school in South Africa should be secure so that the learning environment is enhanced."

By cooperating with and appealing to the Department of Education - at national and provincial level - Bekaert Bastion is lobbying for this level of security, particularly in those schools that fall victim to crime, so that the nation's children may flourish and reach their full potential.

For more information contact Bekaert Bastion, 021 905 4535, sales@bekaertbastion.co.za

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