School violence

2008-05-22 00:00

The 11 officially recognised languages in this country are being disturbingly supplemented by the language of violence. The most obvious demonstration of this at present is the surge of communal violence in Gauteng against foreigners, accompanied by mob recourse to Mshini wam (“Bring me my machine gun”), the song popularised afresh by ANC president Jacob Zuma.

Another example of the same mood is the report that pupils at a high school near

Ezingolweni in southern KwaZulu-Natal have smashed 447 windows and burned library books in a fit of rage against the school’s principal for not providing a satisfactory answer as to why computers at the school are not being made available for their use. The pupils’ complaint may be legitimate but their reaction is completely unjustifiable, especially since channels of communication exist within the school and the Education Department.

There was a time in the eighties when young people were prepared to sacrifice their education altogether around the slogan “liberation before education”. They took to the barricades in a desperate bid for their political freedom. None of that is needed now and yet its influence seems to have become endemic. Otherwise, why destroy classroom windows and burn school library books as a means to an end?

There is a desire in government circles to search for the causes of the violence that the country is experiencing at present. The immediate causes are fairly obvious, embedded in socio-economic deprivation and frustration at the lack of service delivery, for example. More worrying still is the deep-seated culture of violence that has been bred in different ways over many years. Rooting out an implicit preference for the language of violence, based on the perception that it alone works, is the most testing challenge of all.

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