history to blame

Kamogelo Seekoei

Kamogelo Seekoei

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) blames the endemic violence in schools on the country's violent history and apartheid.

SAHRC chief executive Tsiliso Thipanyane said schools were a mirror image of what was happening in society.

"Our society is so violent and part of the reason is that we have not addressed our brutal past.

"Apartheid treated us like animals and when you treat people like that they tend to behave likewise," said Thipanyane.

He also blamed violence in schools on lack of parental guidance.

Violence in schools has recently been in the spotlight, with researchers saying South African schools are the most dangerous in the world and that more than four million pupils have been victimised.

In its recent report, the Centre of Justice and Crime Prevention said many pupils had been bullied, raped and had their belongings stolen at schools.

The report also revealed that many pupils feared going to their school's toilets because they were havens for bullies. It said corporal punishment was not an option that schools should consider because it incites violence and many organisations consider it to be a non-starter.

David Balt of the National Professional Teachers of South Africa (Naptosa) said many people believed corporal punishment was the answer to the disciplinary problem in our schools because it worked in the past.

"Many people come from that background where corporal punishment had good outcomes, but they did not realise that this is the equivalent of assault."

Balt said Naptosa did not agree with corporal punishment.

"We have to find a way of dealing with these problems. We must have a code of conduct that reinforces discipline."

He said his organisation commended the minister for coming up with the pledge.

"The pledge is human rights- based and this is another way of making our pupils respect one another," he said.

A school principal from Soweto said violence in schools was escalating because pupils did not have a sense of self-respect.

"We need to teach our children, from the home and churches, what self-respect is. They need to know that life is sacred and they cannot just go around killing their peers."

Jon Lewis of the South African Democratic Teacher's Union (Sadtu) said banning corporal punishment and not putting alternatives in place was an oversight by the government.

"Nonetheless, we have to train teachers to motivate pupils positively, instead of using a cane.

"We have to give the disruptive pupils a chance to reflect on their behaviour so that they can change," said Lewis.

A Johannesburg psychologist said: "The school environment can play a pivotal role in helping adolescents adjust to the changes. The aggression which we see in our schooling system is a by-product of the lack of attention we have given to the creation and maintenance of adequate support structures for adolescents in our schooling system."

The Education Department had not responded at the time of going to press.