Bulk of school violence happens in classrooms, MPs hear

A screengrab of a bullying incident. (Twitter)
A screengrab of a bullying incident. (Twitter)

Cape Town - The bulk of school violence, be it bullying, theft or assault, happens in classrooms, MPs on the basic education portfolio committee have heard.

The Department of Basic Education and the South African Police Service updated MPs on Wednesday on the state of violence and bullying in schools following a number of highly-publicised incidents.

Department director of school safety Paseka Njobe said data the department has collected shows schoolchildren are particularly vulnerable in classrooms.

According to two 2012 Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention surveys, 44.3% of threats, 51% of assaults, 54.2% of sexual assaults, 60.2% of robberies and 91.5% of thefts all took place in a classroom.

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The next highest place of danger was a sports field, where 25% of threats took place, 24.8% of assaults, 13.2% of sexual assaults, 14% of robberies and 4.6% of thefts took place.

Other locations included corridors, toilets, school gate areas, other open grounds, halls and a small proportion in a principal's office.

When addressing the issue of bullying, Njobe told the committee that learners who do not experience bullying on a regular basis are more likely to score 68 points more in mathematics.

Basic Education Director General Mathanzima Mweli said social media had made the issue of bullying more known to the public, but didn't mean incidents were necessarily increasing.

Anti-bullying programme to be rolled out

Plans are in place though to address the perception of increased violence between classmates.

The department plans to set up a national bullying prevention programme to help students cope with bullies, called "Stop, Walk, Talk". It will be rolled out from February 2018.

Training manuals on how to prevent harassment, including cyber and homophobic bullying, have been handed out to schools, as well as e-guides.

Njobe showed that girl children were more likely to feel fear travelling to and from school, with 18.1% of surveyed girl pupils indicating their fears, compared to 13.7% of boys.

He said 13.6% of girls also feared a specific place at their schools, while 9.8% of surveyed boys had a similar fear.

Corporal punishment

When it came to corporal punishment, the nine provinces fared differently according to a 2015 General Household survey.

The Western Cape had the lowest percentage of learners who fell victim to corporal punishment in 2015, at 1.7%. KwaZulu-Natal had the worst, at 20.2%.

Eastern Cape stood at 16.7%, Northern Cape at 8.6%, Free State at 12.5%, North West at 13.6%, Gauteng at 2.7%, Mpumalanga at 7% and Limpopo at 10.5%.

The national average was 11.3%.

The cities of Durban and Bloemfontein also had the worst percentages at a metro level, at 13.2% and 11.8% respectively.

Mweli stressed that corporal punishment was illegal by the law of the land, despite many occurrences in rural areas.

The police delegation meanwhile told the schools that they have linked 23 064 schools to a designated police station nationally. This gives school principals a direct line to their police station if a situation requires it.

READ: Lesufi issues warning to school bullies

A total of 1 780 schools still need to be linked nationally.

The police have also shut down 5 520 illegal liquor stores that were in close proximity to schools. Those with legal liquor licenses were the responsibility of the liquor board.

Acting committee chairperson Pinkie Mokoto said she was encouraged by the plan to roll out an anti-bullying programme.

She said "this was not the end", and will consult the department again to consider how the programme has fared in future.

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