The Western Cape Education Department said there had been 18 stabbing incidents since the beginning of the school year. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus
Cape Town - As the country reels from two murders in which pupils were killed, statistics show an increase in violence at schools.

A 19-year-old boy allegedly stabbed to death a fellow pupil at Forest High School in Turffontein, Johannesburg, last week, and a 17-year-old boy was stabbed to death, allegedly by a fellow 15-year old pupil, outside the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. They were from a school in Woodstock and were wearing their uniforms.

The Western Cape Education Department said there had been 18 stabbing incidents since the beginning of the school year.

A spokesperson for the WCED department, Bronagh Hammond, did not include the killing in Cape Town when she said: “It is fortunate that no one has been fatally wounded so far.”

Patrick Solomons, director and social worker at Molo Songololo, a Children’s Rights organisation, blamed the violence on violence in larger society.

“Many learners grow up exposed to various kinds of violence and develop violent attitudes and behaviour. This usually presents itself through disruptive behaviour and bullying at schools, and can progress to abusive and violent conduct.”

Solomons said bullies at schools usually operated in groups and picked on the weak. “Bullying and disruptive violent behaviour usually increase when there is a lack of supervision and involvement. Children and learners usually behave badly when parents or teachers are not around. Those who are abusive towards educators are usually aggressive in nature and have no regard for authority. Some are emboldened by group dynamics, gangster mentality and disrespect of others.

“Parents are usually the last to find out and, in some cases, take the side of their children when they have behaved badly,” he said.

Hammond said the department implemented various strategies to address school violence and safety.

“Unfortunately, many of the safety risks are a result of community and gang violence, which affects the safety environment of our schools. Addressing these issues goes beyond our mandate and control. We are therefore also reliant on other governmental departments and law-enforcement agencies.

A spokesperson for Cape Mental Health, Dylan Oktober, said all schools needed to offer appropriate mental health services and education for both pupils and teachers.

“Many pupils who do display violent behaviour in schools have some underlying issues that have not been dealt with, either in the home or from what they are exposed to in the environment they are brought up in,” Oktober said.

“Teachers therefore need to be upskilled in order to learn how to deal with students who display violent and destructive behaviour towards others, before it escalates into something bigger.”

Educational psychologist Simona Maraschin agreed and called for more mental health services at schools. “There needs to be appropriate mental health services offered at all schools, with a social worker and psychologist on site to help teachers deal appropriately with these issues as they happen,” she said.

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