Cape Town 130116- Metro cop police and Police officers patrol at Phoenix High school,Manenberg. there has been gangs shootings in the area.Picture cindy waxa.Reporter Neo/Argus
Cape Town 130116- Metro cop police and Police officers patrol at Phoenix High school,Manenberg. there has been gangs shootings in the area.Picture cindy waxa.Reporter Neo/Argus

SA school violence escalates

By LAUREN ANTHONY Time of article published Jul 8, 2013

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Durban - One in five South African secondary school pupils is a victim of violence, including assault, robbery and even cyber bullying. A new study has found that schools are not the safe havens they are supposed to be.

Teachers are also not safe, with 12.4 percent of those canvassed saying they had experienced physical violence - often from pupils.

Nearly 30 percent of teachers said the place they felt most unsafe was in the classroom.

Principals interviewed attributed the rise in violence levels in schools to a lack of discipline at home, a lack of positive role models and an increased use of alcohol and drug consumption by pupils.

The second National School Violence Study, compiled by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention with the Department of Education, gathered information from 5 939 pupils, 121 principals and 239 teachers from various schools across the country last year.

Of concern to the researchers was that the first study, in 2008, revealed largely similar findings.

Researchers found in the latest study that perceptions of school violence were misconstrued because of high profile violent cases covered in the media.

Instead, repetitive instances of violence - physical or emotional - were more commonplace and impacted on children’s performance at school, they said.

The incidents researched, although deemed “school violence” also included travelling to and from school and waiting on school grounds.

This culture of violence impacted on children’s basic rights, placing them at mental and physical risk, the study revealed.

There are also detrimental, long-term social and economic impacts: school violence costs Brazil an estimated $943 million (R9.6 billion) a year and in the US the figure is as high as $7.9bn.

“Schools, which should be a safe haven for young people, and where children of school-going age spend three-quarters of their waking hours, are instead sites where young people are apparently as at risk of falling victim to violence as they are in the homes and communities in which they live,” the study states.


Many youths are exposed at home and at school to drug-related or illegal activities and alcohol (64.7 percent) and drugs (27.6 percent). Firearms (17.2 percent), and other weapons (50.5 percent) were easily accessible in homes.

About 90 percent of violence encountered by pupils was perpetrated by other classmates.

More than half the teachers interviewed said they were victims of verbal violence, 12.4 percent were victims of physical violence and 3.3 percent were victims of sexual violence.


Among pupils, threats of violence (12.2 percent) were the most common, followed by assault (6.3 percent) with sexual assault (4.7 percent) increasing from 4.3 percent in 2008.

In KwaZulu-Natal, levels of assault and theft had increased since 2008, with other crimes such as sexual assault and robbery decreasing.

Pupils interviewed also said they knew of schoolmates being drunk (27.6 percent) or on drugs (31.8 percent) at school.

Overall, seven of the nine provinces showed violent victimisation rates exceeding the national average of 22.2 percent.

Only Gauteng and the Eastern Cape showed lower numbers.

A greater portion of Indian pupils (31.8 percent) experienced some form of violence last year, followed by coloured pupils (26.3 percent), black pupils (22 percent) and white pupils (15.9 percent).

Commenting on the overall study findings on violence at schools, Labby Ramrathan, an associate professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education, said: “The types of violence are insidious and prevalent but it is a complex problem with no one solution. Rules need to be enforced consistently and those involved must know the implications.”

Ramrathan said teachers were still using corporal punishment to give pupils the impression that the only way to get things done was by force.

“We need to diminish this threat but I understand this is a tall order in classes with 40 or 50 pupils per class, who all respond differently,” he said.

The national Department of Education recently outlined plans to strengthen “safe school committees”, made up of stakeholders from the school and community, to address violence in schools.

Reporting systems

All schools would be linked to local police stations and communities would be mobilised to take ownership of their schools, the department’s Shermain Mannah said at a conference in Durban last week.

School-based crime prevention programmes as well as the establishment of reporting systems at schools would aim to ensure all cases of violence were addressed, Mannah had said.

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