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My Safe Space Initiative: Addressing Safety in South African School

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Schools should serve as safe havens for children, fostering learning, growth, and the achievement of developmental milestones in a calm, peaceful, and enjoyable environment. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many learners in South Africa, as they encounter bullying from their peers and, in some cases, even educators. This leaves them terrified to attend their respective institutions daily. The same holds for many educators who often bear the brunt of abuse from their learners.

A 2021 Stats SA report revealed that approximately one million pupils nationwide experienced violence, corporal punishment, or verbal abuse at school. Shockingly, 71% of these children were between the ages of eight and 10, placing them at the primary school level.

The My Safe Space initiative, led by former SA rugby player James Dalton, was introduced to address these safety challenges. This initiative is part of My Safe Space – Safer Education Together, a non-profit organization providing comprehensive security management to tackle safety issues in South African schools.

“We all cannot change the world at once, but as long as everyone does a little at a time, collectively we can make a big impact,” says the ’95 World Cup winner, who has dedicated himself to keeping children in South Africa safe. Inspired by his time as a Bullyproof ambassador for the JAG foundation, Dalton decided to make a significant impact by installing technologically advanced security systems in schools.

“Through my rugby journey, I was privileged enough to see what sport could achieve for people. However, as a Bullyproof ambassador, I also witnessed the trauma and violence children are exposed to every day,” he adds. “This, coupled with my love for children and passion for their safety, sparked the My Safe Space initiative.”

Dalton firmly believes that constant monitoring and control are necessary in any environment where one human is caring for another. My Safe Space aims to implement the latest security technology, including electric fencing, perimeter beams, CCTV with facial recognition, and access and movement control. The company also installs water purification systems and solar solutions at schools to ensure positive outcomes.

“Not only is there 24/7 monitoring, but each installation project has a service level agreement to ensure maintenance plans and ongoing engagement on our part long after installation,” says Dalton.

He stresses that his goal is not to be a mere ‘bakkie brigade’ that lays infrastructure and technology, gets paid, and never returns. “We want to be fully accountable, and we don’t want to have an incident that affects monitoring, like there being no fiber, for instance. That’s why we’ve also partnered with Vuma to ensure a continuous supply of fiber connectivity access to the schools,” he adds.

My Safe Space collaborates with Vumacam, a smart surveillance provider with the largest CCTV network in South Africa, to secure people, homes, businesses, and public spaces.

Vumacam’s Chief Commercial Officer, Michael Varney, says, “We are proud to be aligned with an organization like My Safe Space that is not only protecting our future generations but providing a more favorable environment for their education.”

While My Safe Space focuses on providing surveillance security systems to Quintile one to five schools, Dalton aims to concentrate more on schools and communities in need that would benefit significantly from constant surveillance to prevent violence and criminal incidents. Angus McKenzie, the Ward Councillor in Bonteheuwel, expresses full support for the work conducted by Dalton and his team at James Dalton Group. “The My Safe Space initiative will hugely benefit the community of Bonteheuwel,” he says.

“We will seek donor funding to support our objectives of providing security technology systems to schools and communities that need it the most in our country,” he concludes.

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