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Stop the blame game and teach our youth how to behave, Dorothy Khosa urges parents and teachers alike.
Johannesburg - There is no parent or family, nor is there a school that wishes to know that it has, and continues to produce, violent children. It has become a normal response for the school to blame parents, and for the parents to point fingers at friends within the school or neighbourhood.
The professionals working in this field try to explain this in terms of societal pressure, which often feels like singing to the wind as no lasting solution is found. So, who creates the little monsters who increasingly perform violent, dastardly acts that blow the mind? Why is it so common that it is pupils who are in Grades 8 to 10 and not so often Grade 11, who are known to be perpetrators?
Teachers and caregivers who work with these children can attest to the power and influence this group has on the school grounds. They are the ones organising drinking parties and selling space cookies or muffins. You will surely find them in all corners of this country, on any given Friday night sprawled in numbers along the Durban Beachfront, in someone’s house in Tzaneen, in a park in Soweto - dancing to loud music and openly smoking or drinking alcohol, and whoever knows what from countless minibus vehicles.
A statement they clearly make is that they do not want school, nor do they prefer to be at home. The school is just a launching pad for their activities. Their families get easily manipulated into providing the resources for the realisation of this kind of fun. They feel gratified in enjoying the products of activities they themselves initiated without any involvement of authority.
There is something in their bodies that has suddenly told them that they have reached manhood and no one should treat them like children. This is evident in how they relate to each other as men as they continue to affirm each other.
This behaviour has the hallmarks of the class of 1976. The organising skills are incredible. The influence on the pupils is profound. They are innovative. Countless stories are told on how they smuggle and sell drugs under their teacher’s noses. They are angry, bold and fearless.
The major difference from the class of 1976 is that this group is not so clear on who their common enemy is. It has been largely infiltrated by drug lords and gangsters who manipulate this group in order to extend their lucrative empires and customer base. It is a well documented fact that violence is a learnt behaviour; no child is born violent.
Violence, however, is sanctioned by different sectors in society, including the family and the school. It is no wonder that this group uses violence to get all the attention it craves so much. The more gruesome the better are the chances for the desired attention propelled by the different social networks.
These men in the making were never taught at their pre-teen stage on how to manage their feelings and emotions. Everybody, including themselves, tends to get shocked at the explosive outburst of pent-up emotions they harbour. It has become increasingly incumbent upon the school and family to recognise the onset of violence. Yes, but more often the family does not have the knowledge or resources to train this group early to acknowledge that conflict exists and there are effective ways of resolving it without necessarily resorting to hurting one another in proving their prowess.
The school is, therefore, in a better position to build better cadres of young people with appropriate skills early. At a time of need during the adolescent stage, they can then draw on well-practised skills to enable them to become responsible citizens, thus creating stable communities.
The reason violence prevention programmes do not get support or the necessary budget is that they do not offer quick-fix solutions, nor do they guarantee the country a glamorous position in global surveys. Whenever there is no evidence of stabbings, shootings or screams from some school, no one thinks of the necessity of these interventions. They are the first to be chopped off during budget allocations.
Therefore, the well-rehearsed blame game or budget excuse from the concerned leading government departments no longer holds. This group continues to wreak havoc on the school grounds and will soon render schools and communities as ungovernable spaces. An urgent intervention is needed before time runs out.
* Dorothy Khosa is a concerned mother who has experience with youth violence issues.
** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers
The Star Africa Africa Edition