Parents must step up as SA grapples with scourge of school violence
Shortly after the fatal stabbing of grade 11 pupil Kulani Mathebula in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said it was saddening that he would be issuing a death certificate instead of a report card for the boy.
The 19-year-old Mondeor High pupil was killed in a park near his home while on his way to school. Three pupils accused of his murder appeared in court on Friday.
In September last year, after maths teacher Gadimang Mokolobate, 24, was murdered by a grade 10 pupil at his school, Ramotshere Secondary in the North West, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said she "will not tolerate delinquency and lawlessness in our schools".
The pupil who killed Mokolobate was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Lehurutshe regional court in the North West last month.
And in yet another killing of a teacher, Kingston Vhiya, from Bosele Middle School near Kuruman, in the Northern Cape, was stabbed to death in his home last year by a 15-year-old pupil who was angry that the teacher had failed him.
Since August last year, 12 pupils have been stabbed to death, 10 of them on their school premises. All but one of the killings were allegedly committed by other pupils.
Though it might be an exaggeration to characterise some of our schools as "killing fields", it is indisputable that hundreds of schools across the country have become ungovernable. These schools, which are supposed to be safe spaces for learning and teaching, are under siege by thugs masquerading as pupils.
Many attacks by pupils on their fellow pupils go unreported in the media, but judging only by those that have been reported, this violence seems to be increasing.
The day after Mathebula was killed, a 13-year-old girl was stabbed and wounded in the abdomen in a school toilet at Tlhabane, near Rustenburg in the North West.
What is being done to urgently address the levels of lawlessness and violence plaguing our hallowed institutions of learning? At the Council of Education Ministers meeting earlier this month - attended by herself and education MECs, among others - Motshekga referred to programmes to educate pupils about the violence plaguing schools. She said there should be an increased focus on the "soft areas" of education, which included assisting children to deal with societal issues.
Last year, North West education MEC Sello Lehari said security guards were going to be deployed at about 100 "hot-spot" schools. But this raises the question: are these measures enough to deal with the scourge of school violence?
It is a well-known fact that parental involvement in a child's education is essential. Schools bemoan the lack of parental involvement. So is it fair to lay the blame for delinquency only on the education departments and schools? Perhaps it is pertinent to ask whether parents are doing their bit to ensure their children become caring, responsible, law-abiding citizens. For example, do parents monitor their children's behaviour at school? How often do they visit schools to ask about a child's academic progress?
On the other hand, teachers in particular have a huge role to play in instilling the right values in children. Teachers are role models. Any educator worth their salt will attest to the fact that pupil discipline is a crucial precondition for teaching and learning to take place. Anarchy and chaos will not be a threat in classrooms where teachers are firm, businesslike and experts in their subject. The regular deployment of social workers to schools to assist pupils with behavioural problems could also go a long way towards eradicating school violence.
Urgent action is required if we want to prevent more deaths at schools.