WATCH | Playgrounds turned battlefields: Are SA school kids becoming more violent?
“Today is not your son, today it’s our son,” said a visibly shaken Guio Nzamba outside the Johannesburg magistrate's court after his nephew, 18-year-old Daniel Bakwela, was stabbed to death on June 2 2019.
Two other pupils were injured in the incident and admitted to hospital with stab wounds.
While it’s not clear what led to the stabbing, witnesses say it was part of an ongoing battle between two rival gangs.
The murder accused was released on R5,000 bail, to the outrage of the victim’s family and community.
“For me, we’ve got no problem to release the boy. The problem is if they release the boy today into the community, what will happen to the community? What will happen tomorrow at the school? He’s 19, he’s not a child. He can face his consequences!”
Bakwela’s death is just one of the many cases of school violence that have made headlines recently.
The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention conducted a study on the prevalence of violence in SA schools in 2012, involving 5,939 pupils, 121 principals and 239 teachers.
More than a fifth of pupils surveyed said they had experienced violence at school - 12.2% had been threatened with violence by a peer, 6.3% had been assaulted, 4.7% had been sexually assaulted or raped, and 4.5% had been robbed.
But while these figures are frightening, they did not show a marked increase compared with the centre’s 2008 study.
Rone McFarlane from Equal Education says that the organisation’s own study conducted in the Western Cape in 2015 corroborated these findings: although the level of violence in schools was unacceptably high, it had not necessarily increased.
“We need to be careful of assuming that a spike in media reports on school violence necessarily indicates a spike in real incidents of school violence. In fact, despite better reporting on the issue this year, the data that’s available doesn’t suggest that there’s a particular spike in school violence over the past couple of years,” McFarlane said.
“What we do know is that the levels of violence in SA is incredibly high,” she said.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi admitted that more needs to be done to protect skills at school: “I can indeed concur. That our schools are not appropriately structured to deal with these kinds of things. It’s just that we don’t want our schools to look like police barracks.”