Placards were lifted high on the streets and peaceful marchers sang songs as Mtyobo Primary School pupils participated in their school’s own 16 days of activism.
Pupils and teachers assembled at the school premises and headed to the Nemato Police Station where a petition appealing for safety was read by Grade 5 pupil, Akha Mzimba.
But before arriving at the police station, observers and possibly even perpetrators of crimes against children heard the message through the songs and placards.
Among the messages on the placards were “Nobody should touch my private parts”, “My body belongs to me” and “Stop child abuse and violence”.
The gist of petition was read aloud by Mzimba in the presence of Warrant Officer Lungisa Gusha.
The pupils’ petition demanded regular protection at schools and in all parts of the community. It also suggested crime awareness programmes in schools and communities. Social media was also presented as an ideal platform to engage community on crime.
Before leaving police with the petition Mzimba read the following: “We want to be protected all the time. In school we want police to look after us during the day, even when we are having sports days with other schools.”
Pupils were also of the view that assigning a police officer to each school could improve things rather than attending crimes already committed. “We need to have police looking after each school almost every day. We need our teachers to have workshops on violence and abuse,” she said.
It also appeared that pupils are no longer feeling safe in their way to and from schools. “We need to get escorted when we are on way to school and from,” she said.
Police visibility was of paramount importance according to the petition. “In our local shops we need to have police moving up and down the street to look for safety,” Mzimba said.
“SGB members, parents and a police delegate should come and have devotions with us at school every Monday,” she added.
Gusha received the petition positively on behalf of station commander, Lt Col (first name to come) Cannon whom he said was on break but would be back on Monday.
“Your petition is heard,” he said. He assured teachers that they would receive a response on Monday.
“Teachers, parents and police need to work together because police alone cannot end this [crime].”
Principal Mava Booi started that they were working together with the health department and SAPS to engage pupils on different topics in relation to child abuse.
He further mentioned that they worked closely with the department of social development and abuse cases handled by social development often get better attention.
However, he highlighted the challenge of pupils who are not keen to disclose this kind of abuse.