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Violence in schools - where have we gone wrong?

Ishara Dhanook from Naptosa.

Ishara Dhanook from Naptosa.

Published Oct 26, 2017


Opinion - ‘HORRIFIC" is the only word that comes to mind when I viewed the videos that have been doing the rounds on social media in the past two weeks.

For those who have not viewed it, the video unfolds with of a group of boys in school uniform attacking one learner. 

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Nobody knows what triggered the blows, punches and kicks to his head and back, but for anyone with an ounce of compassion to watch the video without flinching, would be impossible.

To add fuel to the fire, the cowards who came onto the scene to kick, punch and then duck away, depicts the society we live in. 

o know that another stood by videoing the entire incident words fail me. The attack is interrupted when passing motorists intervene. 

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Even more shocking is the number of learners who are around and refuse to intervene and assist.

The question that comes to my mind is, where have we gone wrong? Educators are not allowed to inflict corporal punishment as the rights of the child are paramount. 

Naptosa, as an educator union, has supported educators by providing them with professional development workshops, which includes alternatives to corporal punishment.

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Parents are visiting therapists and counsellors and having their children diagnosed with a host of emotional and psychological disorders in an attempt to produce the perfect child. 

Yet, only one look at the behaviour in any of the videos circulating will confirm that despite our perceived progress, our society is on a downhill slide. 

I am not only referring to the perpetrators, but also the fanfare which they receive. Do these learners find these revolting acts worthy of applause?

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How sad that the perpetrators receive undue attention and publicity which enable them to bask in the social media limelight. 

Our education system has failed in teaching empathy and compassion. But is this the responsibility of the school?

The question arises as to whose responsibility it is to instil these values in our youth? 

Children and teenagers emulate adult behaviour and learn how to act and react to life situations from the individuals who surround them. 

In a home where anger and destructive behaviour is openly displayed, the child learns that by throwing a tantrum or inflicting violence, immediate gratification is received.

In some homes this unbecoming behaviour symbolises a mark of one's authority. By silencing the other party with a slap or threat of violence, the desired results are achieved. 

Does this not reinforce the misconception that the toughest and loudest individuals bully the weaker into submission?

Children who are products of dysfunctional homes are accustomed to being used as pawns, or having their every need met by the parent who needs to win favour with them. 

They learn to become manipulative and are able to emotionally blackmail adults into submission. 

These individuals cannot accept defeat or take "No" for an answer.

They are not emotionally prepared for a negative response and find it easier to bully and resort to violence as a means to an end.

Is our school system failing our youth? This is not a simple question and certainly does not have a tailor-made answer. 

The fact is that, unlike the home, the school is governed by a set of rules and barriers. 

Educators who are the adult figures with whom learners spend the major part of the day and schooling years with, have their hands tied by the legalities in the system.

The solution lies in a partnership between home and school. It is only when both these faculties communicate and work together towards a common goal that the child benefits. Every individual needs to know that there are repercussions to face with every action taken.

If the red tape in school allows a learner to get away after the first misdemeanour, then surely there's no fear of a repeat offence. The precedent set will dictate if an act will be repeated or not.

Sad to say, we have had several Naptosa educators who have been on the receiving end of this violent behaviour. 

Educators have been attacked in the car park by parents, kicked and punched by learners and stabbed with pens and needles. 

We even have an educator on anti antiretrovirals due to being stabbed with a syringe by a learner. How then do these learners respect their parents at home?

Values and morals cannot be injected into our youth. They follow what they are taught and if we as adults don't display this expected behaviour behind our closed doors, then we are expecting a miracle outside of the home.

In the same vein, learners need to know that they are ambassadors of their schools and if in school uniform are still accountable to the school.

The incident in question took place at a local shopping centre where the learners were not under educator supervision. 

The aim of education should be to inculcate a sense of accountability in our youth, such that even when not under the watchful eye of parents or teachers, they are able to conduct themselves in a responsible manner.

Being responsible also means reporting acts which they have witnessed and protecting the vulnerable in society who are unable to speak up for themselves. To witness and not to report these acts is just as serious as committing them. 

To video this act with the intention of giving it popularity is even more serious and denotes a warped mind. 

As a mother, the inhumane behaviour which borders on barbarism brings tears to my eyes, and my prayer goes out to those on the receiving end of this brutality. The trauma suffered will be carried with them into adulthood.

My advice to parents is to work with the school and accept whatever sanction is meted out to your child, as you are working towards a common vision - the creation of a responsible citizen. 

When social partners work together, the learner knows that they are up against a force to be reckoned with.

Educators who are members of Naptosa are provided with on-going support in the form of motivational, informational and de-stress workshops. 

We represent them when they face disciplinary processes and are very clear in the fact that despite their union affiliation, Naptosa does not condone corporal punishment.

There is no excuse for resorting to violent behaviour when we are blessed with the gift of speech and logical thinking that is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom.

My appeal to you is before you forward a link on social media, ask yourself whether it's the right thing to do. Be an inspiration and not a social diva who posts irresponsibly. 

Treat every child out there like your own and in the words of the Mahatma, be the change you want to see.

* Ishara Dhanook is a KwaZulu-Natal Executive Officer at the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa).


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