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Why are some learners so aggressive?

School-based violence has become rampant in Gauteng, resulting in far too many learners and educators experiencing school as an unsafe place.

The Youth Research Unit (YRU) of Unisa’s Bureau of Market Research (Pty) Ltd (BMR) (YRU@BMR), recently conducted a research study investigating school-based violence. A total of 4 760 learners and 286 educators, from randomly selected secondary schools in Gauteng, participated in the research study.

According to Dr Antoinette Basson, a YRU@BMR Researcher, the study was motivated by an increasing number of reports of school-based violence and the need for relevant research information that can help promote safe school environments and quality education.

The YRU@BMR study identified that school violence is a common occurrence and that secondary schools in Gauteng are becoming more violent and unsafe environments for both learners and educators. More than half of the learners (58%) and 48% of educators who took part in the study have personally experienced violence at school during the 12 months preceding the survey.

Most violent incidents happened during school time, on school premises and included physical fights, bullying, verbal aggression, theft and harassment. The study shows that the causes of school violence are deeply rooted and extend beyond the school environment. Both learners and educators confirmed that family problems, parental negligence, socio-economic circumstances and substance abuse are among the main causes of school-based violence. According to Basson, the importance of a supportive family environment and parental involvement cannot be underestimated in the lives of school-going children.

The YRU@BMR study confirmed that the impact of school violence is far-reaching with devastating consequences for both learners and educators. In addition to disruption and loss of learning and tuition time, learners and educators experienced intense emotions and did not always respond appropriately or receive the necessary support to effectively deal with the overwhelming situation. It is alarming that 11% of the learners considered suicide after experiencing school violence and almost half (47%) of the educators who participated in the study considered resigning from their teaching positions.

The YRU@BMR study shows that despite access to well-founded policies and procedures addressing and preventing school violence, incidents of violence are increasing in secondary schools in Gauteng. The study further revealed that learners are reluctant to report incidents of violence, which has been identified as an effective way to reduce violent incidents in schools. According to Basson, it is important to establish a trustworthy environment in schools which motivate reporting and ensure appropriate reaction after every report.

Addressing school-based violence and protecting learners and educators is not solely the responsibility of schools. The YRU@BMR study confirms that, besides specialised knowledge and skills, a collaborative approach between schools, families and communities is required to deal with school-based violence and promote safety in secondary schools in Gauteng. The study provides valuable information related to school violence and highlights the need for continued attempts to effectively deal with violence amongst school-going children in South Africa.

The report entitled School-based violence in South Africa: An explorative study among learners and educators in secondary schools in Gauteng (Research Report No 502) was compiled by Dr Antoinette Basson of the Youth Research Unit of the Bureau of Market Research (Pty) Ltd.

* By Madeleine Goetz, Senior Research Coordinator, Bureau of Market Research

Publish date: 2020/09/04