SA school violence ‘out of hand’

Parliament – South African pupils still experienced higher levels of violence on schools than most other countries in the world, MPs were told on Tuesday.

Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education, Basic Education department deputy director general for care and support, Granville Whittle, cited two studies conducted in 2008 and 2013 which showed 22 percent of learners in the country were found to have either been threatened with violence, assaulted, robbed or sexually assaulted.

“The 20 percent violence in schools is high by international comparisons,” Whittle said.

“There are a few countries that have a higher rate of violence [than South Africa] like Jamaica for example…”

Whittle said deploying police to schools was only a short term solution to specific incidents, with the department opting to adopt a long term approach to stem school violence.

This included reducing class sizes, investing in the training of teachers to identify learners at risk, improving the accountability of school management teams, allowing learners to participate in identifying safety concerns, and getting parents and communities involved in school safety.

“If you have the presence of dangerous weapons on schools and you interact with your local community, you know parents from the school or community members and they safeguard the perimeter of the schools and sometimes also search learners as they come into the school. That, combined with other initiatives, then would be an effective mechanism.”

According to the 2013 National School Violence Study, over 90 percent of perpetrators of school violence were pupils, followed by teachers at 6.8 percent.

The Western Cape had the highest cases of school violence, with 18.5 percent of pupils reporting they’ve been either threatened, assaulted, robbed or sexually assaulted, followed by Limpopo at 15.9 percent, and the Free State at 13.2 percent.

The department was also beefing up its measures to deal with school bullying, which had become a problem, and would soon launch a national anti-bullying and behaviour change campaign.

The department had already developed training manuals on preventing both “cyber bullying” and “homophobic bullying”.

“Homophobic bullying is highly prevalent in Western Cape schools. They’ve introduced in the last year a course to both train in-service teachers but also training teachers about how to deal with this kind of bullying,” Whittle said.