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NOT all violence at schools is gang-related, and school-based solutions to the problem need the input of the whole of society, Irvin Kinnes, a conflict resolution expert, said yesterday.
In a public dialogue hosted by the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town, Kinnes and Community Safety MEC Dan Plato gave their thoughts on the rise of “gangsterism in South African schools”.
Kinnes said education on the Cape Flats was in the business of reproducing gangsterism because there were no facilities and help.
“The government’s focus cannot be only on gangsters but it must be on learners and they must allow people (NGOs) to help. If you call children gangsters, they will act like gangsters,” he said.
“Violence at schools is not new. Violence spills over into schools because the area is part of disputed gang territory, gangsters are fighting for spoils.
“Most learners are exposed to violence at home and elsewhere . Learners will attack each other to and from school, educators are scared and principals are powerless ,” Kinnes said.
He said community members sometimes took unresolved issues out on schools.
This included vandalism and burglary.
“When (education) authorities bring boundary fences closer to school buildings (for security purposes), they leave the (unused) space open to gangsters and this can lead to an increase in violence around schools. Another pattern that research has found is that sexual violence, vandalism, burglaries and gang violence is increasing.”
Kinnes said that from research he has noticed that gang violence has a detrimental effect on schools.
“Established gangs never, as a rule, choose schools to fight each other. Gangs will inform parents that they are about to fight and this causes pandemonium… and when shootings take place, principals dismiss learners. If a learner witnesses a shooter, they become a target.
“This has seen more learners bringing weapons to school to protect themselves, not knowing that those weapons will not protect them.
“You also see wannabes who don’t come to school to learn but to irritate and cause endless headaches for their educators,” Kinnes said.
He said machismo and lack of respect led to bad attitudes.
“Educators need to also take responsibility to show love and respect (in turn). The contest for the demand of respect causes conflict in classes.”
Earlier, Plato said the department of education was piloting several initiatives to prevent gang violence at schools, while his department held community meetings to try to inform people about gangs.
“Gangsters are not isolated. They are not strangers lurking in dark corners… they are part of our communities.
“It is in our communities that we shelter gangsters,” he said.