Newsletter 197 - "Understanding School Violence!"


This group of articles is a summary of a web link by the “Western Cape Education Department (WCED). (24 May 2018). Safe Schools Programme. SaferSpaces”


Violence in schools is a global phenomenon, with South Africa being no exception. ‘School violence …is typically defined as any acts of violence that take place inside an educational institution, when travelling to and from school or a school-related event, or during such an event.

These school-based acts of violence can be both physical and non-physical and may or may not result in bodily or emotional harm to the victim. This violence typically takes the form of learner-on-learner, learner-on-educator, educator-on-educator, and educator-on-learner violence and severely disrupts the normal functioning of the schooling system.’’ 

(Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, 2016, p.5)


When addressing school violence, it is important to focus not just on actual incidents of crime and violence but also the fear thereof and the impact this fear has on learner and educator well-being, school attendance, and the ability to teach and learn. Learners and educators should not only be free from crime and violence, but they should be free from the fear thereof.

Safe schools form a part of the National Development Plan’s objective that, ‘‘in 2030 people living in South Africa… feel safe at home, at school and at work, and they enjoy an active community life free of fear’’ (NDP 2030, 2012, p. 73).  

In 2008, the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) conducted the first National School Violence Study (NSVS) with more than 12,794 learners, 521 educators and 264 principals (Leoschut, 2008; Burton, 2008). Participants were recruited from primary and secondary schools across all nine provinces of South Africa. Most learners, however, were from KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo (Leoschut, 2008). The researchers looked at the prevalence and nature of school violence experienced by learners in the previous year. Of all learners, 15.3% had been victimized (Burton, 2008). Of the secondary school learners, 22% had been victimized (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). Four years later, the CJCP conducted another nationally representative study with 5,939 secondary school learners, 239 educators and 121 principals. The prevalence rate for violence victimization was very similar, at 22.2%. 

Violence in South African schools includes

  1. threats of violence,
  2. psychological abuse,
  3. robbery,
  4. physical assaults,
  5. gang violence,
  6. corporal punishment,
  7. sexual violence
  8. and bullying (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). The majority of school violence is learners-on learner violence (Burton & Leoschut, 2013; HSRC, 2017). The same learners may be both victims and perpetrators.

 ‘’Physical violence can be any form of physical aggression with intention to hurt, and it includes corporal punishment and physical bullying by adults and other children.’’ (UNESCO, 2017, p.14)

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