Ban on scissors 'won't cut school violence'

Published May 30, 2007

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By Candice Bailey

Regulating or banning the use of instruments like scissors at school is not necessarily the solution to school-based violence, say conflict experts.

They were commenting after a 17-year-old Grade 9 pupil at Eerste River High, Mogammat Sukarie Kannemeyer was stabbed to death with a pair of scissors by a fellow pupil.

After the killing Education MEC Cameron Dugmore called for the regulation of scissors at school.

But Nahla Valji, project manager for the transitional justice programme at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said the problem went beyond what was used.

"It's not about the instrument being used but about the mentality that leads to its use.

"I can understand the reaction to want to regulate the use of instruments such as scissors but banning is not the total approach that is needed.

"It may be the short-term solution and part of the bigger solution but (Tuesday's incident proves) that there is something much bigger going on," she said

This, she said, was linked to the normalisation of violence which required a deeper response than just banning.

She said there were a range of responses that would help deal with youth violence at schools more holistically.

Judith Cohen, head of the parliamentary programme at the South African Human Rights Commission, referred to the Draft Education Laws Amendment Bill, which will provide amendments to the South African Schools Act, introducing random body searches for possessions.

The bill was released by the department of education and recently closed for comment.

Ch]ohen said of the bill: "When one is initially confronted with searches, you would think that that is exactly what is needed."

But, she said, it would be important to establish how the search would be done, who would do it and what would be done if any instruments are found on pupils.

She said the commission, which recently conducted an inquiry into school-based violence, was concerned about the violation of rights with regard to the searches.

She said it would condone searching pupils' possessions, asking them to take off the outer layers of their clothes and turn out their pockets.

"The education department may need to look at other mechanisms of monitoring, such as metal detectors at school entrances, but that brings up another debate.

"Essentially, we can't just say let's ban it because certain children will still bring it in," said Cohen.

But Gert Witbooi, spokesperson for Dugmore, said they were urging schools to regulate the use of scissors more tightly.

"Life orientation teachers must also look at using their periods in a more creative way to address anger and conflict management."

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