Sibongile Mafu

Save our schools

2013-10-24 10:20

Sibongile Mafu

In the last month alone I've seen a sickening number of videos of schoolchildren inflicting violence on each other and on their teachers. I've probably been living comfortably in my bubble for too long because things like this continue to shock me.

A teacher chased and attacked with a broom by a student; another student punched a teacher in the face; pupils getting into proper fistfights with one another and young female students bullying each other with the kind of violence that makes you shudder to think how far they could take it.

All appalling and all caught on camera with eager directors and cinematographers laughing and cackling in the background ready to upload at their nearest YouTube and Facebook.

Egging on the violence

Young people stand about either egging it on or whipping out their camera phones to make sure not a second of the brutality is missed. Not once is there an attempt to stop any of these attacks or seek help when it's happening. The shocking part is not only the violence displayed by these young people but the inaction displayed by the bystanders. As long as they're not involved, I guess, all they can really do is stand by and film it.

The initial video that made the rounds was the GlenVista High School video of the young schoolboy chasing his teacher out of the classroom, with the rest of the class encouraging him and filming proceedings. It was disturbing for many reasons, the main ones being how incredibly intimidating these young people were towards a person of authority and how frighteningly merciless this student was in pursuing and harming this teacher. He was relentless.

Then there was the video of the two male students fist-fighting in what appeared to be an empty school quad, with only the two "stars" of the show and the one Steven Spielberg shooting proceeding seemingly present. And the most recent one I saw this week of the two young female students getting into what seems like a verbal altercation, which escalates into one of the girls smashing the other’s head against a window, with not even a flinch. In this video, there were so many kids filming in, that one steps into the shot with his phone to get a better view of the fight. It looked like an incident of bullying as there was no retaliation from the other girl.


I'm glad GlenVista is taking action against those who filmed it and cheered that young student on because it does send a message that inaction can be just as harmful as the one perpetrating the violence. These children may not be the ones doing the attacking, but their lack of action (or at least the action of getting help) was extremely disappointing. The irony of all of this is of course that all this footage will be used as evidence against them, as well as these young perpetrators.

There are those who say violence like this in schools has been around for a long time, and technology has just helped shine a light on it. Some are perhaps not shocked by it as it happened in their own schools, and there just weren't cellphones at the time to record it.

But it also comforts me that there is still a substantial number of people who are not desensitised to this kind of behaviour, even if "it happens all the time" and refuse to accept that "this is just how it is".

It really does set a dangerous precedent when you do that. Accepting that schools are battlefields where young people must just navigate through the best way they can will only mean the only thing that will shock us, is when there are no longer any incidents.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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