Sunday World (South Africa)

School violence an extension of our turbulent society

- Phumla Mkize ... but seriously

Hardly a week after a grade 12 pupil was stabbed, allegedly by a grade 10 schoolmate at Mandlenkos­i High School in Ntunzuma, north of Durban, another has been killed at Qalabotjha Secondary School in Vlakfontei­n, Johannesbu­rg.

The Gauteng grade 11 pupil was stabbed to death after a fight broke out between two groups of boys at the school on Thursday. There have been many other incidents of school violence that have shocked us as a nation.

In Mpumalanga in August, a grade 10 pupil was stabbed to death by another at Cebisa Secondary School in Ermelo after what the education authoritie­s in that province reported as gang-related violence.

In Gauteng at Thaba-jabula Secondary School in Pimville, Soweto, a grade 10 pupil was stabbed allegedly by another pupil for defending his younger brother from being bullied.

In September, the principal of Msunduzi Secondary School in Pietermari­tzburg was shot dead while trying to stop the husband of one of his teachers from shooting her at the school.

We are a society that uses violence to solve problems. You need only look at the high rate of gender-based violence, drug-related violence and crime – and our schools are a microcosm of this society.

This is us.

Pupils are not safe at school from their schoolmate­s and from adults who do not think twice about turning school grounds into crime scenes.

In her written reply to a question by IFP’S Siphosethu Ngcobo this week, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said her department received reports of 411 gang-related incidents at schools since the beginning of this year.

“Bullying and physical fights committed by gangsters in schools are influenced by social issues, originatin­g in the communitie­s, and spilling over into the schools. In addition, gangsteris­m in some schools is also influenced by faction fighting between learners from different villages. This form of gangsteris­m is common in Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-natal. Furthermor­e, gangsteris­m is closely linked to drug peddling in schools.”

Ngcobo’s question comprised three parts: the total number of gang-related incidents, the department’s response and trends related to these incidents.

Naturally, the department referred to the training it provided on the national school safety framework, the code of conduct for pupils and the protocol it has establishe­d with the police to deal with crime in schools.

Schools are part of a broader community that is grappling with gang violence, crime, drug dealing and abuse.

Our schools are an extension of what happens in our homes, communitie­s and society, and they will not be safe when our homes, community and society are not safe from violence and crime.

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