SCHOOL VIOLENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA
The CJCP's National School Violence Study involved 12,794 learners from primary and secondary schools, 264 school principals and 521 educators. The study shows that 15.3% of children at primary and secondary schools have experienced some form of violence while at school, most commonly threats of violence, assaults and robbery. The experiences of the learners is substantiated by principals, more than four fifths of whom reported incidents of physical violence perpetrated by learners against fellow learners in their school in the preceding year.
Equally of concern is the fact that both principals and learners indicated the easy access to alcohol, drugs and weapons within the school. More than half of the secondary school principals reported incidents involving weapons in their schools and three quarters reported incidents involving drugs or alcohol. One in three secondary school learners know classmates who have been drunk at school, while more than half know learners who smoke dagga at school.
However, these startling findings must be contextualized within the family and community environments in which these learners live. One in three primary school, and two in three secondary learners report it is easy to get alcohol in their communities, while two in three secondary school learners think that access to a gun in their communities is easy. Analysis of the research findings also show the strong association between the home environment and violence at school, with one in ten primary school learners reporting parental use of illegal drugs, a similar percentage reporting their caregiver or parent had been in jail, and one in five secondary school learners reporting siblings who had been in jail. These factors, together with learners experience of corporal punishment at home and at school, all impact significantly on the likelihood of violence at school.
These experiences attached to school have a profound impact on children and on their development. Not only are such incidents likely to impact on a child's attachment to school, leading to increased drop-out and truancy rates, low self-confidence and low levels of academic performance, but they are also likely to impact on young people's later vulnerability to violence, as well as the likelihood of their own turning to violence as they grow older.
The findings point to the need for an integrated strategy which deals with school violence, addressing both short-term and longer term change. Immediate measures such as situational prevention in the schools can limit weapons, drugs and alcohol on school grounds, as well as making schools generally safer. However, intensified and expanded Early Childhood Programmes are called for, that offer support to children as well as parents, providing pro-social parenting skills to parents as well as directly addressing learners more direct needs. Concomitantly, local government have a responsibility for cleaning up neighbourhoods around schools, freeing them of illegal liquor outlets and drug merchants, many of whom reportedly sit directly outside school grounds.
It is only through the combined efforts of school authorities, parents, community leaders and government that school violence can be addressed effectively. These efforts must be located within a broader framework of an intensive social crime prevention strategy that addresses much of the violence that is beyond the reach of police and which occurs within the home environment.
Visit the Publications page to access the school violence reports.