Get to the root of gangsterism

Johann Kikillus, Ocean View

For at least the past eight years, Ocean View has been struggling with a gang issue,which is mainly fuelled by the drug trade.

Tragically, this has led to the loss of many lives (mostly young men) and countless cases of injuries and trauma.

In a community as small as Ocean View, the impact of this ongoing gang war will take years to address.

Recently certain members of the community handed in a list of grievances, which were discussed at a public meeting.

The grievances were mostly around the issues of safety and security.

I agree that visible policing and good street lighting are important in the fight against gangsterism, but I do not believe that is the answer.

I strongly believe that we have to address the root causes of gangsterism and not simply deal with the secondary issues.

The first question we have to ask is what is stopping young men from becoming productive, educated persons who contribute positively to society.

Obviously, one of the first matters to address is that of education. In South Africa, it is very difficult to find decent employment without a matric certificate, so it makes sense to ensure that every single child that enters Grade 1 finishes Grade 12.

In the case of Ocean View, let us assume that both primary schools have an intake of 250 Grade 1 pupils per year. That means that in 12 years time, there should be 500 pupils writing the Grade 12 final papers.

Obviously a small percentage of the pupils will present with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or autism, and will require a more specialised schooling.

But these challenges should be picked up by the end of Grade 3, and with learning support and concessions, many of these children should be able to cope

The next problem is with truancy. A teacher is able to pick up very quickly when a child is off school. The proper protocol is to call the local child protection unit and refer a high-risk child.

Unfortunately, by the time many of these children are brought to me, they have been out of school for 40 or 50 days. By this time, the child has developed a drug problem, become pregnant, joined a gang or has been abused many times over.

I realise that officials from the departments of education and social development are going to say that they are completely overburdened with cases, but if that is so then we need to start looking at different ways of doing things.

It is easier to help a 7-year-old first-time offender than a hardened 16-year-old who is holding a gun to your head.

This is a much more complex problem, but the general idea is to look after every child, every day.

This means that the education department, child protection unit, religious groups and the broader community all play an active part.

It becomes everyone’s responsibility to ensure that not one child is left behind.

Officials need to be held accountable, and if the system doesn’t work properly, then the challenges must be dealt with immediately.

The policeman is then free to deal with those cases where all other social interventions have been exhausted.

To be very blunt, the current system has failed the people of Ocean View, hence the increase in gang activity.

I believe that a series of public meetings needs to take place very soon – not to complain more, but to offer solutions.

These solutions must address the root problems, and the parties implementing the plan need to regularly be held accountable to ensure that not one child is left behind.