Johannesburg - Although cases of sexual assault remain significantly higher among schoolgirls, more boy pupils are falling victim to sexual assault.
This was one of the findings of a national school violence study that were disclosed during a summit on school discipline held in Boksburg on Friday and Saturday.
And, apart from facing risks of violence at school, girl pupils were also fearful of travelling to and from school, according to the study.
The summit, hosted by the Department of Basic Education, was themed “Discipline in schools revisited, striking a balance between ethics and legislation”.
It was attended by department officials, researchers, school governing body associations, teacher unions and religious organisations.
The department’s director-general, Bobby Soobrayan, said the summit was long overdue and touched on an issue that required urgent attention.
Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty said teachers had lost the “will or whip” to deal with discipline in schools since the banning of corporal punishment.
“It’s hard to teach in certain areas and teachers are required to do things beyond their duties to teach,” he said. Studies had shown that at least 20 percent of schoolchildren had been bullied at school, and the psychological fear, among other factors, harmed their academic performance.
Surty said a partnership between the department and the SAPS had led to about 15 000 schools being adopted by police stations, and police officers serving on the schools’ discipline subcommittees.
Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention executive director Patrick Burton, who spoke of the findings of a study of schools violence conducted in 2012, revealed that one in five schoolchildren had experienced violence at school.
Forty-four percent of the pupils said they had had something stolen from them while they were at school in the past year and 22 percent said they had experienced other forms of violence, excluding theft.
Six percent said they had been assaulted and almost 5 percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted at school.
Burton said the rate at which sexual assault incidents were happening at schools was higher than what occurred at the pupils’ homes.