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School violence is a 'huge concern', Angie Motshekga tells parliament

08 October 2019 - 16:00 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga said poorly managed schools tend to have more incidents of violence.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga said poorly managed schools tend to have more incidents of violence.
Image: Gallo Images

School violence is a "huge" concern, basic education minister Angie Motshekga told parliament on Tuesday.

Motshekga, speaking at a joint sitting of the portfolio committees on basic education and police, said there was a particular concern around bullying.

"Bullying remains a major challenge as it most often occurs in the classroom, generally in the absence of a teacher. The rate of bullying is high in terms of international standards, and poorly managed schools tend to have more incidents of violence," Motshekga said.

The joint sitting was aimed at tabling reports to the two commissions on the measures taken to address the safety of pupils and teachers in schools. 

"Studies have shown that where communities take ownership of their schools, the rate of violence is low. School violence most often occurs on school premises, but it also takes place on the way to and from schools. Bullying is increasingly taking place online and with the use of mobile devices," she said.

Just this week, two fatal incidents were reported at South African schools - one in Sebokeng on Monday, and another in Mossel Bay on Tuesday.

Dr Granville Whittle, deputy director-general at the basic education department, told parliament the national school safety framework remained their primary strategic response to school violence.

“It is based on a social ecological systems model, which locates the school within its broader community. It relies on collaboration and partnership. South Africa joined the Safe to Learn global campaign to end violence in schools, in partnership with Unesco and Unicef,” he said.

The education department said its partnership with the departments of justice and social development ensured improved vetting of teachers and other staff, and the establishment of a national school safety steering committee with related government departments and social partners to better coordinate safety interventions.

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"In collaboration, the department has also embarked on interventions aimed at addressing hotspots for most-at-risk schools. Some of the measures include improving the built environment, such as considering learner safety when planning school infrastructure, as well as the closure of taverns and liquor outlets close to schools, in partnership with the department of trade and industry, SAPS and the South African Local Government Association," the department said.

The department said learner support agents (LSAs) would be provided at all hotspot schools, along with the provision of counselling services to victims and perpetrators of violence and abuse.

Motshekga said community involvement was critical and parents needed to play their part and support schools.

“Our main problem is learner on learner violence, which is taking place inside the classroom, so the issue of security guards and the police are welcome. But the key challenge is what learners do to each other,” Motshekga said.

The department said it would also implement specific programmes for boys, without neglecting the efforts to address the continued vulnerability of girls and improve access to sports, arts and culture and other extra-mural activities.

The police said school-based crime prevention would be intensified and the collaborative agreement with the department of basic education would be revised to make it more effective.