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Violence in Schools: Problems, Needs and Measures

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A school is an educational institution designed to provide learning spaces and learning environments for the teaching of students or pupils under the direction of teachers.

A school should be a safe place where learners can learn freely and never fear for their lives.

The recent year has redefined all these definitions in South Africa when numerous cases of school violence where reported frequently, not only did this become shocking but it also brought uncertainty in the country’s educational system.

'We are worried about the situation that is happening in schools, sometimes outside school as it happened in Limpopo. When you begin to arrests 13-year-olds, it must be really worrying. Where are the parents... where are social development structures?.. as the South African police we are trying to have a serious outreach to the young people of South Africa, hence we are having a school safety programme', said Police Minister Bheki Cele

According to Vusi Mcube and Clive Harber (2013) the scourge of violence in South African schools is cause for concern; daily reports appear in the written and electronic media about high levels of violence, physical and sexual abuse, and gang-related activities in our schools. Carrying knives, guns and other weapons has become part of daily school life. These incidents underline the extent of violence and crime we experience in our communities, which generally impacts negatively on education and what happens in the school in particular.

· Violence

Violence has probably always been part of the human experience. Its impact can be seen, in various forms, in all parts of the world. Each year, more than a million people lose their lives, and many more suffer non-fatal injuries, as a result of self-inflicted, interpersonal or collective violence. Overall, violence is among the leading causes of death worldwide for people aged 15–44 years.

Violence is the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy. Less conventional definitions are also used, such as the World Health Organization's definition of violence as 'the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.'

Violence can take many forms and so are the reasons why it may occur in the first place, violence not only affects the ones who implement it or those targeted but may also affects numerous people close to them.

· What are different types of school violence

  • Bullying
  • Peer pressure
  • Harassment
  • Underage drinking
  • Drug abuse
  • School fights
  • School shootings

Causes of violence

According to Debopriya Bose(2018)

· Family Environment-most kids are firmly impacted by their families and practices they potray might be taken from the shut individuals from the family. Families in which are not working great (broken) assume an exceptionally fundamental job in activating unusual conduct in youngsters. Youngsters whom are generally presented to abusive behavior at home, physical or substance misuse for the most part trust that been forceful is acknowledged in social orders they live in. mental maltreatment additionally adds to these practices. At the point when youngsters have set up this mindset they at that point show vicious acts against their instructors and their kindred students. In such manner a few grown-ups neglect to ingrain the feeling of control and duty in kids.

· Behavioral problems- in some children give rise to certain disorders in their personality, like problems in communication, lack of self-esteem and impulsiveness. These children may not be able to blend into school activities and may feel left out and ignored. Such children may even be ridiculed by others because of their social ineptness. While some children go into depression and seem to resort to medicines to solve the problem, there are others who react aggressively to the situation. These children have very low levels of patience and tend to react violently whenever they feel that things are not going according to their wishes. There are also some children who are naturally are more aggressive than others. Such children seem to get drawn to violent acts easily than the rest.

· Community Environment-The conditions in which individuals live in additionally have an impact by they way they carry on e.g networks striked by neediness and joblessness leave families with monetary strains. Grown-ups in such networks will in general be inactive and may wage war to battle for their families. Families in such conditions additionally experience a great deal of strain and abusive behavior at home might be the basic issue. Such cases unfortunately enough leave kids with such grown-ups to turn upward to.

· School Environment; schools have changed a lot since the 1950s.The barriers of race and economic differences got diluted and resulted in children belonging to defferent social, cultural ethnic backgrounds coming in close contact.

· Lack of Parental Guidance:- Elders of the families should give a constructive outcome on youngsters. Despite the fact that this is required, the present economy requests the two guardians to work. This leaves the guardians with almost no time for the youngsters. At the point when youngsters develop, they are presented to new things practically regular. A portion of these might astound as they may remain in direct clash with the morals and ethics that he learns at home. With these being stated, guardians that are occupied with their occupations are generally unfit to address and take care of their kids' issues and questions that emerge in their psyches as they experience new things. With the gatekeepers not being around to guide them, youths with normal families and with no social issues may in like manner get drawn into the circles of mercilessness.

· Aim of the research

The primary purpose of these research is to:

  • Elicit perceptions and experiences of learners, teachers, other school staff, governors and parents about school violence.
  • Mention the types of violence that occur in South African schools both in terms of the nature of the violence and the individuals involved.
  • Compare different views, experiences, and incidents of South Africa.
  • Generate and assess quantitative and qualitative data and typologies of violence within the school environment, which can be used for self-evaluation by a school.
  • Identify and evaluate measures and initiatives taken by schools and their communities to promote a violence-free or secure environment in the school.
  • Investigate the extent to which violence is a barrier to learning.

The importance of the research

It is hoped that this research will contribute to communities and schools as to what and how violence be dealt with in schools. It includes all the stakeholders of the community – learners, parents, teachers, School Governing Body members in gathering the information on issues of violence across different provinces. The study also includes reliable data collection and instruments such as interviews, observations, and a questionnaire. Also, it is hoped that it contributes to developing theories on school violence by looking beyond incidents and types of violence in an attempt to understand more about both how and why schools play a part in both reproducing and perpetrating violence. What is it about the nature of schooling generally, and the way in which it operates in South Africa in particular, that makes violence more possible? While the study recognises and details how violence within the broader society impacts on schools, it is however the beliefs, practices, and behaviours within schools that sanction violence – either directly or by omission by doing nothing – that are the real significance of this study.

Research questions

In this research the questions that’s needs to answered are as follows-

  • What are the problems brought by the violence in schools?
  • What needs to be done to avoid the violence in schools?
  • Who are the people implementing violence and who are the ones that are affected by it?
  • Which measures can be taken to avoid violence in schools?
  • How can these measures be placed in schools and how will they be implemented?

· Key variables

This is a mostly a qualitative study that also includes some “quantitative” research methods. In order to understand and explore reality of violence in schools, qualitative research was used. Half -structured interviews were implemented with teachers, learners, principals, members of the non-teaching staff, and members of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) as well as focus group interviews with learners, and observations allowed the research the depth and detailed reality of what happens inside schools. This allowed the research to obtain insights and an understanding of the how and why of violence in schools based on the view and experiences of those involved. The attempt was to get at the “truth” of violence in schools as seen by the key participants.

· Questionnaires were also put across t in order to obtain a broad, quantitative feel for the situation across schools. To get a picture of the overall structure or the depth of violence in schools, the questionnaires were aimed at: What does it look like? How big is it? What shapes is it? Furthermore, the aim of using questionnaires was to reveal an overall, more quantitative realities of the bigger picture. The aim was therefore to balance the reliability of using a large sample for the questionnaires to make generalisations about South Africa with the validity of more in-depth, qualitative, first hand, face to face research in the schools in order to get two different types of complementary pictures.

Selection of schools and sampling: qualitative research

Four learners of different schools were selected from each of the nearest schools for the purpose of carrying out interviews. The criteria used for selection were based on occurrence of evidence of incidences – this evidence was gathered from media reports and conversations with different stake holders (teachers, principals, and school governors etc.). The schools were chosen based on the perception that these schools are violent, as per mentioned by the holders above.

· Interviews

This research project focused on experiences and insights of the participants, which was the main reason for using mainly qualitative approaches. Interviews were used to get the deep insight of the schools concerned. Half-structured interviews were conducted to examine the dynamics of violence in schools and the measures used to prevent it. Mertens (1998) contends that interviews allow intimate, repeated and prolonged involvement of the researcher and the participant, which enables the researcher to get to the root of what is being investigated. Rubin and Rubin as cited in Arskey and Knight (1999:33), suggest that semi-structured interviews are a way of uncovering and exploring the meanings that underpin people’s lives, routines, behaviours, and feelings

Sampling procedures for interviews

The sample included the following:

  • Learners: Learners who were 14-18 years old were used for the sample. Two groups of learners were interviewed. One group consisted of learners who had been affected by violence, while the second group consisted of those learners who had perpetrated violence.
  • Teachers: A purposive sample of two teachers (the school principal and the Life
  • Orientation teacher for Grade 9-12) in each school in each school was used.
  • School governors: A purposive sample of two representatives of School Governing
  • Bodies (the chair of governors and the chair of the school’s discipline, safety and security committee) in each school was used.
  • Support staff: A purposive sample of three members of support (general assistant and a security guard in the school) in each school in each province was used.

· Problem statement

The purpose of this research as above mentioned is to critically outline the reasons why there’s so much violence in school. There must be a reason and depth of how and why the uprising has been so shocking.

‘If you look at the Limpopo issue, it was 13-year-olds and 14-year-old involved in the murder of Thoriso Themane, in the North West you saw a 13-year-old killing a 14-year-old and yesterday we saw another 13-year-old killing a teenager’.

- Elijah Mhlanga, Spokesperson - Department of Basic Education

This research is primarily also is to determine how these incidents affect an everyday learning for other learners who get to experience this incidents when they occur,the teachers too are also affected on those incidents because they are the first go to hand needed to provide solutions to such matters when they occur.The research is also to establish on how should these incidents be handled and the question remains that should the learners be treated as criminals in order to curb these crimes in schools?

The intervention of this research is not only outline the problems brought by this issue of violence but to find solutions on how decrease the numbers in which these incidents occur. Interviewing the stakeholders of the school about such issues not only outlines that’s the issue is serious but it also enables them to be more concerned on how this can be solved.

For example such interviews may help the schools management to revisit their disciplinary measures on whether they are productive or not. It gives them a chance to re-evaluate on the cases they’ve solved if they were successful and if not how can they improve on that. Including members of the community enables them to understand how important it is to take a stand on such behavioral issues and the need to intervene if also brings the concept of communities working together to better the conditions of the schools and emphasizing on better parenting or other factors that contribute to these violences .these research helps teachers even better because they are exposed to expressing how this affect on how they teach this learners, exposes their feelings to say if they can with such issues and provide them with better solutions on how to curb them

Most important these intervention is for students as they are the main participants on the issue and research.interwies gives them the chance to speak and answer the questions of why? What? How?

  • Why do they get involved in such issues?
  • What drives them to the edge of implementing such behaviour?
  • How can they be helped?

Interviewing students brings a much better view on these incidents and if all these members answer honestly to these questions then it’s a start to finding better solutions because the participants sides are all been heard

· Literature review

The learners interviewed reported that bullying affects them negatively. The study also found that school violence had the following effects on learners: poor academic performance; bunking of classes; chaos and lost time; and depression. These findings concur with the literature (De Wet, 2006; Prinsloo, 2008; Smit, 2007).

· Detracts From Education

Teachers are not only victims of school violence on some occasions, but they are tasked with being on the lookout for troubled students and taking necessary measures to connect on a personal level with students. This heightened attention to school safety is unfortunately necessary, but it shows a shifting perspective in o school.

· Decreases Academic Performance

Research shows exposure to an incidence of violence contributes to lower test scores, but it doesn't necessarily impact grades because homework isn't affected. Part of this can be explained by the finding sleep disruption from the incident could be the culprit. Kids who are distracted and getting poor sleep aren't able to concentrate on major educational tasks like testing.

· Creates Mental Health Concerns

After an incidence of violence, many students end up feeling fearful of other students or of going to school. These fears can lead to more serious conditions like depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the ability to form secure attachments. Some of these issues may not present for days, weeks, or even years after exposure to a traumatic event.

· Methodology

This research requires all the members involved in the daily activities of the school to be present. The main aim of the tools used determine the data is to have every side of the stake-holders opinions.

The main stakeholders of the school needed to acquire data includes;

  • Teachers
  • Learners
  • bers of the community
  • School governors

The reason for including all the stakeholders to participate is to get the depth reason the issues researched including them in these also helps in acquiring almost accurate results

This research will include a few data collecting tools which will help to get the end results

· Table is a handy tool for collecting and presenting data. A well-made table will make it easy for you to keep your data organized.

Supporting staff Table – Interviews conducted in each school

Participants School A School B School C School D Total

School Governors









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Learners ;Perpetrators






Learners ;Victims












The total number of interviews conducted in the six schools was 60 x 6 = 360

· Questionnaires may be used to collect regular or infrequent routine data, and data for specialised studies. While the information in this section applies to questionnaires for all these uses, examples will concern only routine data, whether regular or infrequent. Some of the data often obtained through questionnaires include demographic characteristics, fishing practices, opinions of stakeholders on fisheries issues or management, general information on fishers and household food budgets.

A questionnaire requires respondents to fill out the form themselves, and so requires a high level of literacy. Where multiple languages are common, questionnaires should be prepared using the major languages of the target group. Special care needs to be taken in these cases to ensure accurate translations.

The main advantage of using questionnaires is that a large number of people can be reached relatively easily and economically. A standard questionnaire provides quantifiable answers for a research topic. These answers are relatively easy to anal

Questionnaires are not always the best way to gather information. For example, if there is little previous information on a problem, a questionnaire may only provide limited additional insight. On one hand, the investigators may not have asked the right questions which allow new insight in the research topic. On the other hand, questions often only allow a limited choice of responses. If the right response is not among the choice of answers, the investigators will obtain little or no valid information.

Another setback of questionnaires is the varying responses to questions. Respondents sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret questions. If this is the case, it will be very hard to correct these mistakes and collect missing data in a second round.

· In interviews information is obtained through inquiry and recorded by enumerators. Structured interviews are performed by using survey forms, whereas open interviews are notes taken while talking with respondents. The notes are subsequently structured (interpreted) for further analysis. Open-ended interviews, which need to be interpreted and analysed even during the interview, have to be carried out by well-trained observers and/or enumerators

Interviews provide in-depth information and participants may also disclose information and details that they would not write about on a survey or talk about in a focus group

Interviews are time intensive and being consistent in interviews is challenging .it also requires d good interviewing skills. Interpreting the interviews can also be challenging

The reason why this methods of research were used on students of this age is because they are the ones who are more exposed these violence. Starting from 14 learners or rather kids are now aware of almost everything that happens around, they are at an age where they are experiencing the depth of adolescent and get exposed to bullying through media and various others. From this age learners can almost make their own decisions and are able to completely understand the consequences of their actions on every decision they take.

· Data analysis and Findings

There is a huge concern to the fact that both principals and learners indicated the easy access to alcohol, drugs and weapons within the school. More than half of the secondary school principals reported incidents involving weapons in their schools and three quarters reported incidents involving drugs or alcohol. One in three secondary school learners know classmates who have been drunk at school, while more than half know learners who smoke dagga at school.

Educators perceived the following as effects of school violence on teaching-No effective teaching takes place when learners are uncontrollable, ill-disciplined, and unmanageable

The morale of the educators becomes very low and educators are completely demotivated.

Sometimes, when they go to class, they find the class empty because learners leave school during tuition time

The educators find it difficult to complete the syllabus because of poor attendance by learners and the fact that time is wasted on resolving problems emanating from school violence

There are no textbooks because the rate of theft is very high and books and school property are deliberately damaged by unruly learners and this negatively affects teaching

The effect of school violence is reflected by the dilapidated buildings which have been vandalised the environment is not conducive to teaching

Lack of respect of learners towards each other results in infighting which affects teaching. Learners are always at loggerheads and the atmosphere in the classroom is unbearable

Poor classroom attendance by educators who are not only demotivated but also scared of being attacked by learners Educators go to class unprepared because they never know what is going to happen the next day

Educators cannot take any decisive action against troublesome learners because they fear for their own safety

School violence affects teaching in a negative way

Teaching is affected because educators feel helpless, demoralised, and disillusioned

School violence disturbs school programmes and the goals and aspirations of the school end up not being achieved; and;

However, these startling findings must be taken seriously within the family and community environments in which these learners live. Two in three secondary learners report it is easy to get alcohol in their communities, while also two in three secondary school learners think that access to a drugs in their communities is easy. Analysis of the research findings also show the strong association between the home environment and violence at school, with one in ten secondary school learners reporting parental use of illegal drugs, a similar percentage reporting their caregiver or parent had been in jail, and also one in five secondary school learners reporting siblings who had been in jail. These factors, together with learners experience of corporal punishment at home and at school, all impact significantly on the likelihood of violence at school.

The findings point to the need for an integrated strategy which deals with school violence, addressing both short-term and longer term change. Immediate measures such as situational prevention in the schools can limit weapons, drugs and alcohol on school grounds, as well as making schools generally safer. However, intensified and expanded Early Childhood Programmes are called for, that offer support to children as well as parents, providing pro-social parenting skills to parents as well as directly addressing learners more direct needs. Concomitantly, local government have a responsibility for cleaning up neighbourhoods around schools, freeing them of illegal liquor outlets and drug merchants, many of whom reportedly sit directly outside school grounds © 2005 - 2017 | CJCP | Centre for Justice & Crime Prevention | Cape Town South Africa

· Recommendations

The schools need to put in place new measures of which be used to deal with these incidents moving forward. They also need to change or rather amend new rules of which protects all the stake holders of the school

A National School Safety Framework has been developed to serve as a management tool for Provincial and District Officials responsible for school safety, principals, Senior Management Team Members, SGB members, teachers and learners to identify and manage risk and threats of violence in and around schools. The Framework is critical in empowering all responsible officials in understanding their responsibilities regarding school safety.

There should be more extra curriculum activities implanted in schools especially the ones in the townships and more regular visits should be provided the police to check and monitor schools regularly


This research has showed and revealed that there is a huge problem within our schools. The schools need to re-evaluate the measures they have put in place to deal with violence’s and disciplining learners. The department of education too needs to be more involved in schools and how they deal with such issues; the local police should always be in the lookouts and responds immediately when these occur. There should be more activities put in place for learners as a way of avoiding these and learners need to be sat down to understand further on how they can be helped and such help should be provided immediately.

Members of the community also have to be included in trying to solve such issues and also need to be on stay by whenever such incidents occur. The research has also shown how schools are no longer safe for learners and teachers too.


  1. South African Journal of Education; 2013; 33(3). The nature, causes and effects of school violence in South African high schools-
  2. Yolanda Dolombisa and Kim Porteus. Salim Vally Educational Policy Unit. Violence in South African Schools1
  3. B.M. Zulu, G. Urbani and A. van der Merwe.
  4. J.L. van der Walt- Violence as an impediment to a culture of teaching and learning in some South African schools.
  5. Debopriya Bose(2018)Opinionfront
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