Healing from inside

Joe Jansen is returning to Hangberg.

A former school principal under whose guidance thousands of Hangberg residents came of age, is returning to the community in a bid to address escalating levels of violence and crime among the youth.

The advent of Joe Jansen, a principal of Sentinel Primary School for 34 years, is part of a new plan to tackle lawless youth marauding through the harbour and broader Hangberg area.

It is envisioned Mr Jansen’s intricate knowledge of the community and the personal relationships he built with generations of families will make an impact on wayward youth and steer them to more productive futures.

Last month, the Sentinel highlighted a group of between 15 and 20 minors who are terrorising the Hout Bay harbour, mugging residents and tourists with little or no consequence (“Tackling the juvenile delinquent threat”, Sentinel, July 6).

Even though these youngsters have been repeatedly reported to police and the provincial Department of Social Development, they have slipped through the cracks and continue to roam the harbour precinct committing crimes.

Mr Jansen, who is also the chairperson of Hout Bay non-profit Community Cohesion, feels that he can no longer stand idly by. He retired from the school in 2011.

“I know these boys, and I know their parents. They trust me. I know the dynamics of this community, and I feel I need to come back to help the situation. These boys are on a road to self-destruction,” he said.

Mr Jansen said the boys appeared to be beyond control because both their parents and teachers had given up on them on account of their their criminal ways.

“Our focus is going to be on the parents, people who I taught and have known most of their lives. I am hoping to use my relationship with them to send a message that they need to play a greater role in their children’s lives.

“You are getting parents who are ending up in jail, the kids think this is acceptable and so they also end up breaking the law. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Mr Jansen will be addressing Hangberg parents at a meeting at the Hangberg multi-purpose centre next Tuesday, August 7.

The meeting will be attended by representatives of the department of Social Development, Hout Bay Community Policing Forum (CPF), SAPS, Community Crime Prevention and other stakeholders.

He encouraged the community to attend as they were the critical partners in the plan.

“It needs to be made clear to parents that if they can’t control their children, they need to be put in youth care centres. The children need to be given the opportunity to learn skills elsewhere so they can have a sense of self-worth.

“Most of these kids are from single-parent families, or are in the care of their grandmothers, who have no way of controlling them.”

Another aspect of the new strategy will be creating awareness among these youth that there is a world outside of Hout Bay.

“Some kids will never venture out of Hout Bay. They have never been on a train or been to a shopping mall. When I was at Sentinel Primary, there was a social worker who regularly counselled the kids. She and her husband once took some kids on an outing to the V&A Waterfront. When they went past Llandudno, the kids asked her what that place was. This community is so isolated, and there are no positive spin-offs coming into the area.”

Mr Jansen was concerned that there were “very few” role models for Hangberg children to look up to, and this was something he would be emphasising as he engaged with parents.

“The success stories usually move out of the area. When I was principal, I had a former pupil, Tyrone Joubert, who had a very difficult upbringing yet he still became a chartered accountant. I asked him to come back and speak to the pupils, telling them about his journey, and they listened. This kind of thing isn’t happening anymore, and we need it to.”

Mr Jansen will also be formulating a plan to highlight the importance of parent-teacher meetings in establishing a greater sense of community in Hangberg.

“One year, when I could see things were starting to go down, I wrote a letter in the Sentinel inviting community leaders, religious leaders and politicians to a meeting. I asked one pastor to implore his members, most of whom were parents, to attend meetings at the school. I then organised it that the pastor and other community leaders arranged that their members attended our meetings. In this way we had more and more people coming and being involved in their children’s lives.”

While there was no way of guaranteeing the buy-in of parents, Mr Jansen hoped they recognise something needed to be done about their children, and he was willing to be a vehicle for that change.

“My fear is that the older these (harbour) kids get, the more dangerous they will become.”

CPF chairperson Anthony Chemaly welcomed Mr Jansen’s commitment to the community and willingness to play a role in turning around its fortunes.

“He carries a lot of respect in the community. Whatever he can do to make things better is obviously welcomed,” he said.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas was ecstatic about Mr Jansen’s return to the community.

“The interventions of community members such as former principal Jansen are always welcome as partnerships in civil society in overcoming many of the social ills that are prevalent today,” he said.

“The Hout Bay harbour area has seen a definite shift towards lawless behaviour and unfortunately government can only do so much. Last year I implemented various parenting workshops which were facilitated through our social development department which took place at Mr Jansen’s alma mater, Sentinel Primary.

“Although these were successful in terms of the parenting skills imparted, a very sad reality is that the parents that come to these sorts of interventions are often not the parents who actually need to be there.”

Mr Quintas said by having someone like Mr Jansen coming back to the community to speak with parents and grandparents and today’s youth about civic mindedness and social responsibility as members of the Hout Bay community, and finding ways to address truancy and crime at various levels, was a “welcome, welcome relief”.