Former Sentinel Primary School principal Joe Jansen has implored Hangberg parents to say “enough is enough” when it comes to rising crime levels among the youth.
Having read media reports about a group of between 15 and 20 youth terrorising the harbour community, Mr Jansen, principal at the school for 34 years prior to his retirement in 2011, has availed himself to sort out the situation with the help of the community, using his established relationships with families to make an impact (“Healing from inside”, Sentinel, August 3).
Speaking at the Hangberg civic centre on Tuesday night, August 7, Mr Jansen, who is also the chairperson of local non-profit Community Cohesion, said it was not too late to turn the truant children’s lives around, provided there were enough people who cared to make a difference.
“When I first came to Hout Bay, there wasn’t a single gangster in the community, now they’re everywhere. This has got me thinking: where are the role models in the community? We have to ask, who do our children want to be like?”
During his time at Sentinel Primary, there were many success stories in Hangberg, such as Elizabeth Baartman, now a judge, the late Shaun Adonis, who graduated from UCT, researcher Raymond Daniels and dance instructor Ricardo Koopman.
“At one point, the Cape Times ran a programme where extra classes were offered to schoolchildren at UCT. What struck me was that when the bus came to pick up children in Hout Bay, the bus was filled with kids from Mandela Park, but there were only one or two children from the harbour community. I found this very strange.
“I thought, what is going on with our people? But then I had one pupil, Tyrone Joubert, who attended the classes. One day the lecturer wasn’t there, so Tyrone decided to start giving the other kids lessons. Today he is a big shot accountant at Investec.”
Mr Jansen said those successes proved that people in the community should never let their circumstances dictate their future.
He also addressed the issue of single-parent families, and said it was no longer acceptable to have families without father figures.
“Your child needs his father to give him direction. At the moment, the kids have no respect for anyone. We cannot blame the schools, because they are losing their way at home. There used to be discipline at home, but that has disappeared because our family structures have broken down.”
Referring to Ellen Pakkies, the woman who killed her abusive tik addict son, he said a situation had arisen where parents were even killing their own children because they could no longer cope with their criminal ways.
“I love Hout Bay. The people are genuine people who have always been here for me. But I dream about these kids, I worry about them so much. If we don’t try to fix this, they will be sitting in Pollsmoor Prison in three or four years.”
He recalled that during South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, he worked for the electoral commission. A day before the general election, he had visited Pollsmoor where special votes could be made.
“Do you know what? Some of the kids I knew were imprisoned there and started calling my name. I was shocked. I asked them what happened, and they told me they had been picked up for minor crimes, but there they were imprisoned with hardened criminals.
“We don’t want our kids going to jail, because they will come out harder than when they went in.”
Mr Jansen said the Tuesday meeting was only the first of many such engagements he would be having with the community.
“I will be coming back, and together we are going to brainstorm solutions. We have to make an attempt to rescue our kids. If there is anyone willing to help us, let’s bring them in.”
Following the meeting, names of community members present were collected so that these could be included in a database for future engagements.
Warren Abrahams, secretary of the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), said the forum was in full support of Mr Jansen’s intervention.
“We must tap into existing programmes for children, but also get new and attractive programmes on the ground that encourage children and youth to join,” he said.
“Mr Jansen is a great individual to drive this initiative and taught here for years.
“He gained a great deal of knowledge and respect from parents and students. We hope that the parents, community members, community institutions, faith institutions, education institutions, NGOs and NPOs will bring their input to the table to work on a plan for children and youth going forward.”
He said the harbour community was in distress and unity was needed now more than ever, “not just for the sake of our community and our children, but for the safety of all Hout Bay residents. Divisions within this community must now be put aside to get our priorities in line with the vision of a safer Hangberg that takes care and protects everyone.”
Hangberg Neighbourhood Watch member, Jerome Allen, encouraged the community to work with the watch to report crime in the area.
He said members of other neighbourhood watches in Hout Bay wanted to help Hangberg, and their willingness to assist in cleaning up and beautifying the area around the new satellite neighbourhood watch centre should be welcomed.