The growing number of violent incidents in South African schools is merely an effect of violence modelled on various spheres of society, delegates at a regional conference looking into the prevention of violence against women and children heard on Wednesday.
“Violence is a learned behaviour, a modelled behaviour, violence is normalised behaviour. What happens in communities goes to collapse in schools,” facilitator Noxolo Thabatha explained to delegates attending the conference in Johannesburg titled “Prevention of violence against women and girls in Southern Africa – from Evidence to Action”.
“If a child is neglected, school is where it is picked up,” she added.
Thabatha was speaking at a dialogue on the prevention of violence in the education sector.
The dialogue heard how gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide affected the girl-child while the boy-child was more likely to become a victim of bullying.
“Girls tend to be the victims of GBV in school e.g. rape, harassment and sexual assault, while boys tend to be victims of physical violence and bullying.
“Another example is Limpopo Secondary School where 31 girls fell pregnant, three of them by the same male teacher,” she explained.
Following the stabbing of Forest High pupil Daniel Bakwela, 16, by a fellow pupil, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi revealed it had come to the department’s attention that 13 pupils in Gauteng were facing various criminal charges.
News24 previously reported researchers said the level of violence in South Africa’s schools had not increased in recent years and remained stable, although high.
However, they noted spanking was part of the problem.
Experts said various programmes being rolled out across South Africa could assist with the high levels of violence.
An example presented to delegates on Wednesday included “peace clubs” which are being introduced at schools across all provinces with the aim of teaching pupils to approach conflict in a non-violent manner.
“It’s a learner-led club mentored by two volunteer teachers. It functions as an extra-mural activity, once a week in one-hour sessions.
“The only successful peace clubs are the ones where teachers are fully involved,” the Eastern Cape alternatives to violence project’s Siyando Qoto explained during his presentation.
The Department of Basic Education’s Nokuthula Prusent also identified a manual titled “Opening Our Eyes” which aims to build the capacity of teachers to prevent GBV in schools.
“It trains educators on identification/prevention of child abuse, sexual harassment and different types of hate crimes, including homophobic bullying, etc,” she explained.
However, she concluded there were issues with the manual, such as a lack of age and grade specific content.
The conference, attended by activists and delegates from all over the world, ends on Thursday.