School violence surge

2013-04-18 00:00

SCHOOLS in KwaZulu-Natal have managed to keep crime in check, but pupils continue to be at risk of violence in an environment that is assumed to be safe, say the authors of the National School Violence Study.

While almost half of the pupils in KZN are victims of theft, the major blight in the province is an increase of nearly five percent in cases of assault, the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention found.

The first study, in 2008, found that 22% of secondary school pupils surveyed nationally had succumbed to some form of violence in the preceding 12 months.

The 2012 survey report, released yesterday, showed that 22,2% of high school pupils had been threatened with violence or been victims of assault, robbery and/or sexual assault at school in the previous year.

The authors of the study, which sampled 5 939 pupils, 121 principals and 239 teachers, found that, in KZN:

• The number of pupils assaulted had increased from 3,7% to 8,2% since 2008;

• Sexual assault victims increased from 3,8% to 3,9%;

• Victims of theft increased from 49,4% to 49,9%;

• Pupils threatened with violence decreased from 15,8% to 11,3%;

• Victims of robbery decreased to 3,7% from 4,1%.

The study found that violence at schools was not limited to pupils; it also involved teachers who were often victims of verbal violence (52,1%), physical violence (12,4%) and sexual violence (3,3%) perpetrated by pupils.

Violence was significantly more prevalent in schools in urban areas (26,2%) compared to those in metropolitan (21,7%) and rural areas (20,8%).

Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape were experienced more by female pupils, while boys experienced higher levels of physical assault.

Assault was most common in the Western Cape (9,2%), the North West (9,6%) and KwaZulu-Natal (8,2%).

In the case of sexual assaults, the Northern Cape had the highest levels of reported cases (11,2%), followed by the Free State and the Western Cape (both 9,2%).

Although property-related crimes, particularly theft, were frequently reported across all provinces, the rates were highest in Mpumalanga (64,1%), the Eastern Cape (55,9%) and the Free State (52%).

KZN Education Department head Dr Nkosinathi Sishi said violence at schools was a reflection of what was happening in society.

“You can’t look at violence at schools and not look at the society the children come from.”

Local clinical psychologist Clive Willows said children were living in a society where violence was portrayed as “glamorous”. “There’s violence in films and TV programmes, and they use it as a tool to settle a dispute and issues. And this mindset is worrying,” he said.

Independent child specialist and former KZN Childline director Linda Naidoo said horrific incidents of violence occurred among children. She said many children felt misunderstood and lacked their parents’ support.

“They also see violence at home and they are angry, So they lash out at each other because they don’t know what to do. It’s a cry for help.”

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