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Katlego Moeng, Sowetan

Research done by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation shows that in many schools children as young as nine years display aggressive behaviour.

School ground fights are common but it is at 15 that fights get serious, with money and drugs being the main motivation.

IFP spokesman Alfred Mpontshane says: “What are we teaching our children and why are they behaving like criminals? Aggressive behaviour often starts at home and is inflamed by violent surroundings. We urgently need to address these issues”.

Experts interviewed by Sowetan were asked about the school attacks and violence among young people and how it could be prevented.

Muzi Shabalala of the CSVR says children are not taught negotiation skills, so when faced with confrontation, they retaliate.

“Contrary to popular belief… it is in suburban schools, not township schools, where most guns and knives are brought to school,” he says.

“Over the last 12 years there has been an influx of township children going to suburban schools but this is not the reason for the increase in violence.

“There have been many cases of white on white violence. The problem is that this is considered normal behaviour. Young people have an inclination to retaliate.”

Stacey Liebowitz, a member of the board of directors at the Institute for Traumatic Stress, says: “Victims of crime and abuse internalise their emotions and in their minds it becomes a way of life”.

She says research has shown that “the less time children spend on the streets and the more time they spend taking part in constructive activities, the less likely they are to engage in anti-social behaviour”.

Liebowitz encourages extra-mural activities but also recognises the impact that organisations like Eldorado Park’s Centre for Peace Action have on the community.

The organisation is aimed at early childhood intervention.

It works on a “big brother” programme, where older teenagers adopt a younger child to motivate, guide and monitor. The child feels cared for and has a role model to relate to. Also, the older teenagers feel a sense of responsibility and benefits by gaining self-confidence.

The national training co-ordinator for Girls’ and Boys’ Town, Magaret Sehlabane, says: “Peer governance is the most effective way our youth development centre uses to modify behaviour.”

Children go to the Town often after being suspended or expelled from their schools.

Meanwhile, the department of community safety is working on programmes that address anti-social behaviour .

On February 25 the department will launch a roadshow in Munsieville on the West Rand.

Lesley Lethata of the department says: “The roadshow, together with the youth imbizo planned for Johannesburg central in April, will highlight the issue of anti-social behaviour with a specific focus on substance abuse, school bullying, behaviour outside of school and youth in conflict with the law.”

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