violence in schools in south africa

Violence in Schools in South Africa:8 Top Causes, Types

Concern should be expressed about the epidemic of violence in schools in South African; everyday stories concerning high levels of physical and verbal abuse can be found in both print and internet media.

Gang-related activities, sexual assault, and other crimes in our schools. 

Lugging weapons and knives and other weapons has become a common occurrence in school. 

These occurrences highlight how much crime and violence there is in our neighborhoods, which typically negatively affects education and, more specifically, events in the school.

Any acts of violence that occur inside a school, while a student is traveling to and from school or to an event associated with school, or even while attending such an event, are generally referred to as “school violence.” 

The victim may or may not sustain physical or emotional harm as a result of these school-based acts of violence, which can be both physical and non-physical in nature. 

The normal operation of the educational system is severely disrupted by this violence, which frequently takes the form of learner-on-learner, learner-on-educator, educator-on-educator, and educator-on-learner violence.

The dread of crime and violence and its effects on learner and educator well-being, school attendance, and the capacity to teach and learn are all significant factors to consider when tackling school violence.

Learners and educators should not only be free from crime and violence, but they should be free from the fear thereof.

Hill and Hill  (1994, 16) contend that a risky school environment where abuse and violence occur, where weapons and drugs are present, and where anti-drug regulations are not stringent or enforced, increase learners’ vulnerability to physical attack, substance abuse, and drop out. 

 School environments that lack structure and have no constructive, creative and challenging activities to engage in, lead to apathy, boredom and discontent.

Root Causes of Violence in Schools in South Africa

Low Self Esteem and Personality Disorder

Personality disorders can be another factor in classroom violence. 

For instance, shyness might make a student feel isolated from his peers, which can lead him to act rebelliously or to use any means necessary to stand out. 

Bullying and gang fights may also emerge from such behavior

Abusive and Dysfunctional Homes

Violence in schools also results from psychological flaws brought on by dysfunctional homes. 

When people are exposed to subpar parenting or discord among family members, they may start to experience worry, hatred, an inferiority complex, rage, and other negative feelings that drive violent behavior. 

Furthermore, kids or wards who live in households with violent parents or guardians often use violence to impose their dominance.

Abuse of Drugs And Alcohol

One of the many causes of school violence, which is a multifaceted societal problem, is the usage of harmful substances like drug and alcohol abuse. 

When people get intoxicated, they frequently lose control of their inhibitions and behave irrationally, whether they be students, faculty, or members of the general public. 

Thus, the way narcotics affect the human body can act as a spark for violence in schools.

Violence in the Media

Violent media is another factor in school violence. 

The social impact of violent video games and television shows is frequently ignored. 

Children and teenagers frequently imitate their favorite television characters in action films, which results in learned violent behavior in educational settings.

“The cultivation analysis theory states that heavy exposure to media causes individuals to develop an illusory perception of reality based on the most repetitive and consistent messages of a particular medium.” 

Types of Violence in Schools in South Africa

Physical Violence

Physical violence is any act that aims to inflict pain or other physical harm or that actually does so. 

As with all forms of violence, the primary intent of the perpetrator is not just to inflict bodily harm, though this may not always be the case, but also to restrict the other person’s right to self-determination.

Physical abuse makes it evident to the victim that the abuser is capable of doing things to them that they do not want to happen. 

Such acts of violence highlight differences of social power, or may intend to promote particular demands, sometimes regularly, through coercion.

Physical violence includes beating, burning, kicking, punching, biting, maiming or killing, or the use of objects or weapons as the case may be.

Stabbings and shootings can occur at schools in high-violence neighborhoods such as South Africa, where firearms are readily available.

 Teachers using corporal punishment is another type of physical abuse that occurs in schools.


Bullying is the term for unfavorable, intentional behavior that targets one or more defenseless people with the intention of causing them physical and psychological harm. 

An imbalance of power between the victim and the perpetrator characterizes this particular type of aggression, which occurs repeatedly. 

From verbal abuse to more forceful actions to hate crimes, bullying includes a wide spectrum of behaviors. 

Direct and indirect versions of these actions can be distinguished.

Direct forms of bullying include name-calling, hurtful teasing, and intimidation. 

Physical bullying, which results in bodily harm through pushing, kicking, and hitting, and verbal bullying, which includes these same behaviors.

Indirect kinds of bullying include social exclusion and spreading rumors about others are referred to as relational bullying.

Bullying in school frequently results in abuse.

Bullying behavior frequently worsens over time if it is not properly addressed. 

Students are more likely to experience peer cyberbullying due to increased access to social media

Cyberbullying is a recent development in relational bullying that involves the use of electronic devices like computers and mobile phones as well as communication tools like text messages, social media, chat rooms, and websites.

Cyberbullying has a unique characteristic in that it can be anonymous, unlike other forms of bullying, which all take place in groups and include victims who are aware of the identity of the bullies.

As a result of the availability of new technology, the frequency of cyberbullying has increased recently.

And due to the nature of cyberbullying, victims frequently find it difficult to stop even after they leave the school setting.

Sexual Violence 

For both boys and girls, the prevalence of sexual offenses among South African minors is comparable (Burton et al., 2015). 

Boys are much more likely to encounter “non-contact” sexual violence, such as being made to watch pornographic material or see sexual actions, than girls are to encounter “contact” sexual violence, such as rape and sexual assault.

Hotspot in Schools

The classroom is where the majority of school violence occurs (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). 

This violence frequently happens when teachers are unable to keep their class under control or when the class is left unattended. 

Violence in the classroom is a huge obstacle to learning.

The second most popular places for violence are school playing fields and sports fields. 

The CJCP’s 2012 NSVS study found that students’ greatest concern was associated with the school’s restrooms. 

The location of more than 12.5% of sexual assaults in schools was found to be a school restroom, suggesting that these facilities provide an increased risk for sexual violence. 

Particularly female students reported instances of sexual assault by male students in the restrooms.

In South Africa, a lot of students experience anxiety both inside and outside of the classroom. 

Many kids in South Africa walk to and from school or rely on public transportation because not all kids and teenagers can afford private transportation. 

Unaccompanied school students who use public transportation or walk to class are at risk of encountering general violence in their neighborhoods (Burton & Leoschut, 2013; CJCP, 2016; Equal Education, 2016). 

Walking or taking public transportation increases the likelihood of sexual violence victimization for female students (Burton & Leoschut, 2013; UN CEDAW, 2011).

What Are The Risk Factors?

The ecological model postulates that different risk and protective factors combine to either raise or decrease the possibility that a learner may either see or engage in violence at school. 

There are risk and protective elements at the individual, interpersonal, and societal levels.

Individual Factors

Individual risk variables, such as gender and age, might raise the likelihood of being a victim or perpetrator of specific types of violence. 

According to the 2012 NSVS results, more female students (24.3%) than male students (19.7%) reported being victims of violence (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). 

7.6% of female students and 1.4% of male students reported having been sexually assaulted at school in the preceding year. 

The rates of physical assault, violent threats, and robbery were comparable for girls and boys, with boys just marginally outpacing girls in these categories.

Regarding age as a risk factor, students between the ages of 15 and 16 were most likely to experience violence at school.

Interpersonal Factors

A child’s behavior, as well as their attitudes and conventions, are greatly influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of its parents, carers, and siblings in the home environment (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). 

This affects the child’s interactions with people in their community and school. Students who have experienced violence at home are more likely to experience it at school. 

Furthermore, a youngster is more likely to experience violence if their friends or peers bring illegal drugs or weapons to school (Burton & Leoschut, 2013; Brown, Simelane & Malan, 2016).

Societal Factors

A student’s likelihood of experiencing violence at school is also influenced by the community in which they are raised (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). 

Schools located in neighborhoods with easy access to alcohol, drugs, and firearms are more likely to witness and/or experience school violence. 

These societies are frequently quite violent between themselves (Leoschut, 2008). Weapons, narcotics, and alcohol all have the potential to encourage or worsen violent behavior. 

According to the 2008 NSVS, students who had easy access to alcohol and illegal drugs in their neighborhoods were far more likely to become victims of violence at school. 

Additionally, these students face greater risks when traveling to and from school (Equal Education, 2016; Burton & Leoschut, 2013).

What are three common acts of violence at South African schools?

Types of School Violence in South Africa:

  • Physical Violence.
  • Corporal Punishment.
  • Bullying.
  • Sexual Violence.

What is the most common form of violence in schools?

Examples of school violence include:

Bullying and cyberbullying.

Fighting (e.g., punching, slapping, kicking)

Weapon use.

Gang violence.

Sexual violence.

How common is violence in South African schools?

In his study of school violence in South African schools, Burton (2008) found that about 1.8 million of all pupils between Grade 3 and Grade 12 (15.3%) had experienced violence in one form or another.

What are the main causes of violence in schools?

The Root of Violence in Schools

Individuals who have a history of being abused either by family members or other members of society are likely to become violent towards others, more especially if they are teenagers. Substance abuse also contributes to persons becoming violent towards others.

How does school violence affect learners?

The effects of school violence on students are both physical and psychological in nature. They range from injury to depression and contemplating suicide. School violence can also impact learning. Students who experience fear at school are likely to have difficulty concentrating on their education.

What are 4 ways to prevent violence?

Empower teens to be part of the solution. Directly engaging teens in preventing violence helps them:

  • Make healthy choices.
  • Be a leader and voice for change for healthier communities and schools.
  • Advise community and school decision-makers.
  • Promote respect and empathy with family, friends, and peers.

How can schools prevent crime?

How to prevent Crimes In Schools

  • Train pupils or young learners not to talk to strangers.
  • Discourage parents from writing the names of learners at the back of their school bags.
  • Encourage pupils to learn the phone numbers of their parents by heart.

What strategies do you use to cope with school violence?

These include the use of metal detectors, the presence of security guards on campus, rules, and regulations regarding student conduct and dress, profiling of potentially violent students, anti-bullying instructional programs, and counseling and mediation.

How can school fights be prevented?

Here are three important ways to avoid and respond to school fights:

  • Take care of relationships before there is trouble.
  • Slow down. Think before you act.
  • Get help when things are getting out of control.

Which law protects violence in schools?

Section 12 of the Constitution guarantees protection against violence, torture and cruel and inhumane treatment.

This section automatically includes the protection of learners against bullying.

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