Females' environmental perceptions of violence and danger in secondary schools : case studies from the Durban Metropolitan area.
There has been a significant level of outcry opposing violence against females and the development of policies and legislation aimed at reducing this increasing problem that confronts South African society. Yet, violence and the fear of violence, especially gender-based violence, are widespread in South Africa. Despite the considerable research that has been undertaken on violence in South Africa, there remains a weak empirical and conceptual basis to understand females' environmental perceptions of violence and danger in secondary schools. This dissertation contributes to a greater understanding of the relationships between gender, violence and environmental perceptions. Gender specific spatialities, experiences and perceptions are critically examined. Critical concerns in the study include females' environmental perceptions of violence and images of danger in secondary schools, sources of information regarding violence and danger, types of violence that females are aware of, specific experiences of violence among the respondents and the coping strategies adopted by females. To enable a critical examination of the above issues, a comprehensive literature review was undertaken as well as fieldwork was conducted in two secondary schools (Dr A D Lazarus and Ridge Park College). Both female learners and teachers participated in the study. A variety of quantitative and qualitative methods were used including questionnaire surveys as well as mental mapping and ranking exercises to achieve the aims and objectives of this study. The key findings of the research show that violence and the danger of violence constrain the movements and the options of females. Furthermore, the results clearly illustrate discernible patterns of fear of violence, experiences of violence, perceptions of violence and responses to the perceived threat of violence among the respondents. Additionally, a disconcerting finding was that a significant proportion of the respondents at both schools viewed the school itself to be unsafe or located in close proximity to areas that they perceived to be dangerous. Undoubtedly, addressing issues pertaining to gender and violence in secondary schools (and in society more generally) will enhance females' abilities to effectively participate in and benefit from educational and development processes. This study shows that acts of violence generally and gender-based violence particularly need to be understood in their environmental contexts inclusive of the location! spatial, social, economic and political dimensions. Moreover, perceptions and the fear of violence, although they may not match actual risk, need to be responded to constructively.