School violence inbred: study

By Drum Digital
17 April 2013

Security fences and metal detectors will not end violence in schools because such violence is often inbred, a study on the issue revealed on Wednesday.

"Schools in some provinces are putting up security fences and security lighting... to try and stop people from coming into schools... It is not going to be enough," executive director of the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP), Patrick Burton, said in Johannesburg.

"One of the key factors is that... classrooms are the primary site where most of the violence occurs... Violence is usually perpetrated by a classmate."

He was speaking at the release of the centre's study on violence in South African schools conducted in the 12 months between August 2011 and August 2012. The centre first conducted the study in 2008.

The study found one in five secondary school pupils had experienced some form of violence at school.

A total of 121 high schools across the country were randomly selected and 5939 children, 121 principals and 239 teachers were surveyed. The study focused on four specific types of violence -- threats of violence, assault, sexual assault, and robbery.

Director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, Prof Ann Skelton, said pupils were entitled to feel safe at schools.

"We need to ensure that our classrooms are safe... it can only be done once the person in charge takes responsibility," Skelton said.

She said a United Nations Children's Fund study showed violence in a society contributed to violence in schools.

Burton said government should find a solution for crime prevention. A national framework was needed to give pupils a voice to say where at school they felt unsafe and to provide a reporting mechanism.

Random searches should be conducted in schools, Burton said.

"Somebody has to take responsibility for what is happening in schools."

Schools should be embedded within a community because children exposed to violence were more likely to become violent, Burton said.

Acting chief director for social inclusion and partnership in the basic education department, Shermain Mannah, said the department was concerned at the levels of violence in schools.

"When a school is not safe we consider it a school that is not functional. We as a department are aware that school safety is a critical requirement to education... School safety is extremely important."

Mannah said the department had teamed up with police to address "criminal elements" at some schools.

The study showed that one in 10 pupils had been threatened with violence at school. One in 20 children had been a victim of robbery.

One in 16 participants had reported being a victim of physical assault, and one in 20 pupils of sexual assault or rape.

Around 20.9 percent of pupils reported online or cyber bullying. Theft was reported by 44.1 percent of children.

CJCP research director Lezanne Leoschut said the most common place for violence to occur was in the classroom, followed by the playgrounds or sport fields.

"Educators are often absent, which often leaves the learners open and vulnerable for violence," she said.

Pupils also reported violence more, mostly to their teachers, she said.

Corporal punishment was still a problem, and was reported by almost 50 percent of the children surveyed. This was up from 47.5 percent in 2008.

Leoschut said the study found exposure to crime increased the risk of victimisation.

Burton said levels of violence in schools were high, but had stayed the same between 2008 and 2012.

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