Newsletter 198 - "Understanding School Violence 2!"

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”

Physical Violence

In high violence neighbourhoods where weapons are easily available, physical violence at school can include stabbings and shootings (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). Another form of physical violence at schools is corporal punishment by educators (Department of Education, 2000). 


School bullying involves repeated incidents of abuse (UNESCO, 2017; Burton & Leoschut, 2013). If not effectively addressed, the bullying behaviour often escalates over time. With increasing access to social media, learners are also at risk of cyberbullying from fellow learners (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). Owing to the nature of cyberbullying, victims are often unable to escape this even when they leave the school environment.

Sexual Violence 

Prevalence rates for sexual offences amongst South African children are similar for boys and girls (Burton et al., 2015). Girls are far more likely to experience ‘’contact’’ sexual violence, such as rape and sexual assault; while boys are far more likely to experience ‘’non-contact’’ sexual violence, such as being forced to witness sexual acts or view pornographic material.

Hotspots in Schools

The majority of violence occurring in schools takes place in the classroom (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). This violence often occurs when educators are unable to manage and control their class or when the class is left without supervision. Classroom violence poses a significant barrier to learning. 

School sports grounds and playing areas are the next most frequent locations for violence perpetration. According to the CJCP’s 2012 NSVS study, within the school premises, school toilets were the area most feared by learners. Findings indicated that school toilets are sites of increased risk for sexual violence, accounting for the location of more than 12.5% of sexual assaults in schools. Female learners, in particular, reported cases where male learners had sexually violated them, in the school toilets. 

Many learners in South Africa not only feel unsafe on the school premises, but also on their way to and from school. Since not all children and adolescents can afford private transport, many children in South Africa walk or rely on public transport to get to and from school. Unaccompanied school children who rely on public transport or walking, are vulnerable to general violence in their communities (Burton & Leoschut, 2013; CJCP, 2016; Equal Education, 2016). For female learners, who walk or use public transport, there is an increased risk of sexual violence victimization (Burton & Leoschut, 2013; UN CEDAW, 2011). 

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