The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) has warned that urgent action needs to be taken to tackle violence in schools, describing the recent fatal stabbing of a student outside a school in Turffontein, Johannesburg, on Monday 3rd June and the spate of violent crimes in schools, as a national emergency.
A holistic approach is needed by authorities, schools and communities to deal with what CSVR feels is evidence of a broader societal problem. Some schools and communities are slowly being turned into war zones because of this crime epidemic that has seen students being killed, harmed or turning to violent crime.
Schools are no longer a place of comfort and safety for students and schools alone cannot be expected to deal with violent crime. While the main job of the teachers is to educate students, they need basic counselling and containment skills. They also need a psychosocial lens when dealing with crime. "Teachers are the first responders when violent crimes occur, but how well-equipped are they to spot early warning signs of violence, identify and flag problem children deal with crime and proffer sustainable solutions to crime prevention?" said CSVR Executive Director Nomfundo Mogapi.
The borders between schools and communities are porous meaning interventions cannot be school-focused, because schools do not operate in isolation from the communities they are in. Therefore, in many cases the violence in schools mirrors that of the communities the students live in. There is evidence that gang wars or drug dealings often spill into schools where students are both victims and perpetrators of violence.
CSVR is calling for an urgent review or a change in laws and practices relating to safety in schools, an integrated, multi-sectoral approach and a dedicated directorate to provide psychosocial support to deal with youth crime. Government departments responsible for the welfare and safety of children regrettably continue to work in silos and without enough capacity. The communities themselves do not have capacity to identify problem kids and a tackle crime.
Children who are excluded from schools for crime, are often just transferred to another school without any counselling or rehabilitation. This does little to resolve the problems. It therefore important to have interventions and programmes to assist out of school youths and at risk youths because there is a higher probability of these turning to crime.
CSVR believes another cause of youth crimes that requires urgent research is the breakdown of families that has left a parenting vacuum. In many the communities, the organisation is working in, CSVR's community workers and clinicians acknowledge the family is in crisis and note that there are many broken homes and single parent households. That means the single parent is often at work or trying to make a living, allowing very little time to supervise children. "There is therefore need for after-school programmes, community leadership and change agents in the community to assist in providing support and counselling. CSVR has recorded successes in many communities around the country where it has worked to build community capacity to address youth crime and introduce safe schools programmes," said Mogapi.
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