School violence a 'national emergency' that mirrors communities in which pupils live
School teachers cannot be expected to fix the psycho-social problems in communities that have led to a spike in pupils being killed, harmed or turning to violent crime.
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) says urgent action needs to be taken to tackle violence in schools, which it sees as a national emergency.
Some schools and communities are slowly being turned into war zones, it noted in a statement on Thursday, in the wake of Monday's fatal stabbing of a pupil outside a school in Turffontein, Johannesburg.
“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?” asked 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, said the centre. In many cases, the violence in schools mirrors that of the communities the pupils live in.
CSVR is calling for an urgent review or a change in laws and practices relating to safety in schools, and a dedicated directorate to provide psycho-social 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 centre said.
"The communities themselves do not have capacity to identify problem kids and 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."
The centre recommends that interventions and programmes be launched to assist out-of-school youths and at-risk youths.
The breakdown of families that has left a parenting vacuum also requires research, it states.
In many communities the organisation is working in, its 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."
The centre says there is a need for after-school programmes, community leadership and change agents in the communities to assist in providing support and counselling.