Back-to-school is not always cool when it comes to GBVF

Published Jan 23, 2023

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Johannesburg - The yearly back-to-school period is generally a time of great excitement and fresh new beginnings for South Africa’s young people.

The Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) Response Fund says for many it can also be a period of escape (at least for a little while each weekday) from gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) taking place in their homes.

But even schools can be places of danger, according to Tshepo Sefotlhelo, executive head: Marketing & Communication of the GBVF Response Fund.

“Shockingly and sadly, the back-to-school period can also mark the start of a fearful and confusing time when our youth are exposed to abusers in and around the education system - whether these be educational professionals or classmates - resulting in many of our school-going youth becoming victims of GBVF themselves,” said Sefotlhelo.

The GBVF Response Fund has encouraged South Africans to consider these facts:

  • The findings of a recent Birth to Twenty Plus (BT20+) study - which followed more than 2,000 children in Soweto from birth to 22 years of age (also known as Mandela’s Children) - showed that 99% of these children had been exposed to some form of direct or indirect violence.
  • The same study revealed that more than 65% of primary school-aged children, and 89% of adolescents were reported to have used violence.
  • A study by the South African Medical Research Centre (SAMRC) for the Department of Health, which sampled 14,776 school-going youth, revealed that: 17% of students carried weapons, 41% of students were bullied, 14% belonged to gangs, 15% had been forced to have sex, 15% had been threatened or injured on school property, 19% were injured in fights and 32% felt unsafe at school.
  • Although physical punishment in schools was prohibited by the 1996 South African Schools Act, it has continued with between 22% and 74% of learners reporting being hit or caned at school (according to a Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention’s 2012 National School Violence study).
  • And, more recently, between April 2020 and July 2021, more than 160 cases of sexual misconduct perpetrated by male teachers were reported to the South African Council for Educators.

“As a society, we have a responsibility to create a safer and (physically, emotionally and psychologically) healthier youth. We need to set the example in building-up and educating future generations to treat (themselves and) others with kindness and respect, through healthy forms of communication,” Sefotlhelo said.

“Parents, other care-givers and educators need to be role-models to this end, and even more importantly (alongside members of our justice system), be a safe haven for our youth to speak-up, so that they can be protected from harmful situations. We need to work together to put an end to GBVF in our lifetimes.”

The Star

Related Topics:

gender based violence