South Africa

Pupils are violent because of where they come from

Exposure to violence in families and communities, which is stressful for anyone who comes into contact with it, breeds a generation of violent pupils, University of Cape Town psychology professor Catherine Ward says.

This was said in the wake of the death last week of Ramotshere Secondary School teacher Gadimang Mokolobate in Zeerust in North West. He was stabbed in class by a pupil. In Gauteng, a teacher was threatened with a gun by a pupil at Eldorado Park Secondary School, south of Johannesburg.

Living in an environment where there is intimate partner violence involving two adults in about 16% households and more than 30% of parents either spank or beat their children, pupils, according to Ward, “are provided with bad role models on how to solve problems.

“We have a situation where children are surrounded by violence. They are anxious, stressed and learn this as a way to solve problems. What they do not see is adults working together to find constructive solutions.”

Adding drugs and alcohol to the mix makes the situation “more volatile”. Gang activities “make it worse because in some schools there are gangs and a lot of bullying”.

Despite the department of basic education’s national school safety framework, a guide for how to address violence in schools, classroom management was “a real problem.

“Not many teachers are taught this,” said Ward. “It is a constructive way to address the challenge of homework not done, by asking the pupil to do it during lunch. There is a gap in teacher education on how to deal with violence.

“Also compounding the situation is that teachers work in under-resourced environments.

“Big classrooms breed chaos in schools – an environment which does not help them.”

She said principals had to “make schools violence-free zones”.

“Teachers need to learn alternatives to address difficult behaviour other than corporal punishment,” she added.

Ward said parents could help by learning positive discipline techniques and “giving children an environment in which violence is not used”.

To get to grips with what lay behind the Zeerust and Eldorado Park incidents would require a psychiatric examination of the two pupils, she added.

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