School violence is an issue and requires a coordinated approach

Recently, a tragic incident took place in Bela Bela, where two pupils at Maope High School allegedly killed an 18-year-old classmate.

In recent years, violence in South Africa has been increasing, particularly among the youth.

This escalation continues to spill into our educational institutions, posing a serious threat to the well-being and safety of students.

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While there are school safety programmes run by different government departments and civil society, there is a need to triple-up the implementation of violence prevention programmes within schools.

In many schools, youths are increasingly becoming both perpetrators and victims of violence.

Recently, a tragic incident took place in Bela Bela, where two pupils at Maope High School allegedly killed an 18-year-old classmate.

Such cases create perpetual fear which is not conducive for teaching or learning. To counteract this trend, we need to recognise the effects of such cases and work towards holistic solutions that address not just the symptoms, but the causes of violence in our schools.

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Given our country’s limited resources, collaboration becomes crucial in doing this. It is applaudable to see diverse stakeholders, including government departments, school governing bodies, pupils and some community members working together towards a common goal of preventing violence in schools.

We have also seen some schools and pupils taking a leading role in developing solutions aimed at enhancing safety.

However, advocating for further collaboration of this kind is essential. How do we accomplish that collaboration in a way that is significant and successful.

We need to ensure that every programme truly makes a positive impact – if that means dedicating resources for a behavioural change programme, then let us put our effort to do so.

There are instances where collaborations fall short. It is crucial to understand why.

One significant challenge in implementing such programmes is the varying levels of leadership and organisation across schools.

While some institutions may have a strong administrative structure, others lack the necessary organisation to effectively implement violence-prevention programmes.

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This disparity makes it difficult to drive successful collaborations and calls for a tailored approach, considering the specific needs and capacities of each school.

While it is necessary to improve the law enforcement, it will not be enough to stop the violence that has become firmly ingrained in the minds of many people.

We need strong programmes that seek to strengthen the resilience of these communities in a way that directly impacts schools.

To implement these violence-prevention programmes requires concerted, well-coordinated and community-initiated efforts that drive multiple-method and intergenerational approach to directly address violence in schools.

This will allow us to harness peace and social cohesion by using the knowledge and leadership that exist at the community level.

This strategy needs to take an intergenerational approach to managing conflict and valuing peace and tolerance.

Of course, this works best in a country with a strong legislative framework, capable leaders and political commitment.

We cannot create safety for pupils and exclude teachers. In schools affected by violence, teachers often feel over whelmed and threatened.

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They may feel ill-equipped to deal with such issues. It is crucial to understand the existing conflict resolution and violence response mechanism schools employ.

The strengths, weaknesses of existing mechanisms need to be identified, as well as opportunities for effective responses.

Teachers need to be given a platform to actively participate because they know their pupils and can ensure tangible and lasting impact on pupils.

As the 2024 school calendar commences, it is crucial to understand that schools are not just centres of education, they are the breeding grounds for the next generation of active citizens.

The failure to create violence-free environments in schools will result in behavioural issues, disrupt learning outcomes and stop young people from developing critical social and emotional skills, affecting their contribution to the society.

• Chiguvare is the programme coordinator for the Kagisano Programme at Lawyers for Human Rights in Limpopo.

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