Silence the violence

2008-03-15 00:00

While a study by the SA Human Rights Commission released this week revealed high levels of violence in schools, a programme implemented in schools in Phoenix, Durban, is teaching youth to minimise violent behaviour.

Phoenix school principal Dr Kamalanathan Naidoo said he has seen a gradual change among children participating in the project.

“We had one grade 9 child who was always bunking classes and talking back to teachers, but there has been a change in his way of speaking and general outlook,” Naidoo said.

The Silence the Violence programme is a 10- step course that has been offered to young people who exhibit behavioural problems and need to learn practical ways to minimise violent behaviour.

Some of the children have been accused of bullying and involvement in drugs, while others were caught smoking at school or were disruptive in class or disrespectful of their teachers.

The students were identified by the school principal and invited to attend the programme with their parents’ consent.

The programme aims to deal with issues such as self-esteem and anger management and to give the youth a better insight into themselves and their behaviour. It is facilitated by the Phoenix Justice and Reconciliation Programme (JARP), which is a project of the crime prevention initiative Khulisa. It has been offered in seven schools in Phoenix, north of Durban, since about September last year, according to project manager Cindy Delomoney.

Deshree Vather and Kim Pillay, who implement the programme, said it focuses on violence and the assumption that a lot of violence has its roots in how the perpetrator was brought up and their experience of life.

“The programme is about building awareness of a person’s own behavioural patterns and violent tendency,” Vather said. “It aims to get youth to look at the root cause of violence and to understand why they are acting in a certain way.”

It is hoped that through awareness, understanding and learning practical methods, youngsters will be able to break the cycle of violence.

Naidoo said that in addition to doing group work, project staff also offer counselling to students and work with parents to try to resolve problems.

“We don’t have counselling services at the school, so we are very grateful to have this. We find that most problems in our school start as petty conflicts that are unresolved and may end up in fights in the community after school. This can become a major problem because the police may get involved and charges are laid. Khulisa is helping to address such problems.”

Delomoney said: “The Silence the Violence programme is based on restorative principles because we want to get people to understand that what they have done is wrong, but that they are still a good person. We want to affirm their good qualities and help youth to come out of a process repaired and healed.”

JARP was introduced in Phoenix after research conducted by Khulisa found a general feeling of insecurity and a high level of crime and drug abuse among schoolchildren and youths.

Residents indicated that drugs are readily available in schools and on the streets at any time, and that the high rate of unemployment and a lack of recreational facilities contributes to crime.

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