Armed attack on students leads UCT to suspend services in Khayelitsha

17 Aug 2016 - 15:45

The University of Cape Town has temporarily suspended its student health services in Khayelitsha this week after six Health Sciences students were robbed at gunpoint outside Ummangaliso Primary School in Site B, Khayelitsha, on the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 August 2016.

“We are appalled that students and staff who are serving the community have been attacked in this way,” said Gerda Kruger, Executive Director: Communication & Marketing at UCT. “We are relieved that no one was injured and we are extending various forms of assistance to the affected UCT members. But it is shocking that the criminal behaviour of a few individuals should interfere with the good work that our students and staff members are trying to do,” she said.

“We are also deeply concerned about the very high levels of crime in Khayelitsha, where some of our staff members and students live and visit, and where community members fight a continued battle for ongoing security and safety,” she said.

UCT is involved in Khayelitsha in many different ways, including programmes run by the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Students Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO). UCT’s Schools Improvement Initiative (SII) works in many primary and secondary schools. The services provided by medical and health and rehabilitation students serve hospitals, community health clinics and schools in Cape Town. SHAWCO provides mobile clinics that visit township and informal communities, manned by about 15 UCT students as well as volunteer doctors. SHAWCO tutoring services are also provided by about 50 additional UCT students. SHAWCO’s mobile clinic visits Khayelitsha on Monday, so it will not be affected by this week’s’ suspension of volunteer services, but the Saturday tutoring programme will be suspended.

The UCT students affected by yesterday’s attack were in Khayelitsha at the Site B Community Health Clinic as part of their clinical training at public health facilities. They were in a UCT vehicle on their way to Ummangaliso Primary School to pick up four other students: one in final year of the UCT physiotherapy programme and three who are in the final year of speech therapy. The speech and language therapy students were at the school for their professional practice placement. Ummangaliso Primary School is one of the partners in the SII that is run by UCT in Khayelitsha.

Nobody was injured in the robbery, which occurred outside the school. As the van slowed down, it was approached by three armed gunmen who robbed students of their cellphones and bags. One final-year student was robbed of the entire patient portfolio she had developed as a final-year requirement. She has no way of retrieving this lost information.

UCT has offered trauma counselling to the students and the Dean’s office at the Faculty of Health Sciences is negotiating with convenors to minimise the effect on the students’ academic lives.

“The Faculty is extremely concerned about the safety of its staff and students, and those of other health workers in our community,” said Interim Dean for Health Sciences, Professor Gregory Hussey.

“This attack, and other similar incidents where health workers have been attacked in the course of duty here and elsewhere in the country, highlight the vulnerability of our health workers with respect to criminality. The much-needed essential health services provided by them in our communities are under threat from criminals,” said Professor Hussey.

“We call on everyone in the community to assist the authorities in alerting them to criminal activity, and supporting initiatives to combat crime, particularly where this impacts on essential health services.”

This is the second armed attack on UCT members in the area in two months. On 20 June 2016, the SII project manager was stopped by two gunmen as she was driving in Site B.  In the car with her was a colleague from an NGO that provides library support services to schools.  The NGO member’s bag was in the boot of the car, but the UCT staff member had her bag stolen.

She and her colleagues in the SII continue to work in the Khayelitsha partner schools. “We’re committed to our partnership with the schools and are determined that UCT’s work in the schools will continue,” she said. She was at Ummangaliso Primary School after the attack on UCT students yesterday, and said the SA Police Services officers who assisted were efficient and professional, escorting the UCT vehicles out of the community after they questioned the students.

UCT intends to discuss its long-term response to these incidents at the highest level. Meanwhile, Dr Jonathan Clark, Director of the Schools Development Unit and the SII,  has indicated that he and his colleagues will ensure that strategies are put in place to ensure the safety of all those from UCT who work in the SII partner schools in Khayelitsha. 

Issued by: UCT Communication and Marketing Department

Patricia Lucas  

Tel: (021) 650 5428 Fax (021) 650 5628

Cell:  076 292 8047

E-mail: pat.lucas@uct.ac.za

University of Cape Town

Rondebosch

Website: www.uct.ac.za

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