CAPE TOWN-140422- The Members of Impilo yoLutsha meet with representatives from the Ceasefire Outreach Program at Gugulethu Community Centre to begin their anti-gang violence initiative partnership. Photo: Kenneth Klemens Reporter: Kenneth Klemens

Cape Town - A new nationwide study aims to use the violent and abusive experiences of the country’s young people as a way of preventing future generations from encountering the same fate.

The national incidence and prevalence study on child and adolescent safety in South Africa is being conducted by UCT’s department of psychology and its Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit and the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP).

Data collected from the study aims to shed light on causes, identify ways of strengthening existing child protection and care systems and both prevent and intervene in child abuse and maltreatment cases.

Patrick Burton of the CJCP said that while the study was being conducted, communities showed a common interest and desire to protect their children from experiencing violence.

This included physical abuse, neglect and exposure to other forms of violence such as peer victimisation, criminal violence and witnessing violence.

“Our refusal rates for interviews - both by the respondents and their parents, who need to give them permission - have been very low. After visiting the schools, several of the schools approached our teams for further assistance in dealing with safety and in stopping violence. This reflects the priority they are placing on the issue of child and adolescent safety, and the degree to which they recognise that they need help.”

Burton said it was important that the research, which started in October last year with the first findings due to be released in March next year, was fed as far as possible into government policy processes, systems, regulations and legislation.

It was hoped that this would facilitate a change in society’s behaviour, he said.

“Once completed, we plan an additional six months of targeted dissemination of the findings and will ensure that the findings are presented in a variety of forms to ensure their maximum take-up.”

The team interviewed a total of 2 839 adolescents in randomly selected households throughout the country and 2 636 adolescents at randomly selected schools across eight provinces.

Burton, pictured, said that although they had received a good response so far, there were some challenges that needed to be contended with.

“Even though our response rates so far have been very positive, many people may understandably be hesitant to let strangers in to speak to their children.”

According to a report by the South Africa Council for Educators, examples of violence adolescents experienced in schools included assaults (stabbings and shootings), being robbed, sexual violence (rape) and pupils being beaten up for expressing homosexual tendencies.

Jacques Sibomana from the National Institute for Crime Rehabilitation and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), said they had developed their own invention programme, which could benefit from the data due to be released by UCT and CJCP next year.

“With regards to our strategy and response to youth crimes, Nicro offers various programmes and services such as safety ambassadors as well as diversion services that includes a basket of services targeting youth around the country,” said Sibomana.

The safety ambassadors programme involved the mentoring and developing of young people who were empowered with the prerequisite skills, knowledge, experience and motivation to serve as positive role models to their peers to reduce antisocial behaviour and victimisation.

The object was for this to lead to a lower incidence of crime in the school environment and, ultimately, in the community.

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Cape Argus