Gender-based violence and development : knowledge and attitudes among student teachers.
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Amartya Sen has sought to refocus development theory towards the ultimate goal offreedom, and has in this context emphasised the importance ofeducation in building human capabilities to lead the lives they have reason to value. However, research suggesting that gender-based violence is prevalent in the South African school system represents a paradox as it reveals that years of schooling can contribute to deprivation and capability failure rather than enhanced human capabilities and development. Literature reviewed for this dissertation suggests that over and above the lost educational opportunities due to gender-based violence in schools, it can cause long-term and even terminal health damages and contribute to increased societywide levels of violence with substantial socio-economic costs. Anti-violence interventions among learners have been found to have minimal effect unless they are supported by the overall school culture. However, educators who are expected to ensure a safe school environment are not only responding inadequately to cases of genderbased violence between learners, but some are personally engaging in acts ofgender violence towards learners. Recognising the significant role ofeducators, both as part ofthe problem and as key to any solution, this dissertation seeks to improve understanding ofthe context within which interventions at the level ofeducators may be possible. This study explores what previous research have identified as common attitudes, beliefs and knowledge gaps among educators in schools with high levels ofgender-based violence. Findings include confusion about the legal and policy framework as it applies to such cases, a lack of will to acknowledge the problem and inadequate understanding ofgender-based violence. The construction of men and women as essential opposites has been identified as an underlying reason for inadequate acknowledgement and understanding. Research on these dimensions forms the basis for a study using survey and focus group methodologies to assess the prevalence of such attitudes and knowledge gaps of issues around gender-based violence among student teachers about to fmalise their studies and start their professional lives as educators. The data collected suggests that the student teachers will vary considerably in their ability to respond to cases ofgender-based violence. A more concerted effort is required in order to prepare student teachers for the problem ofgender-based violence and enable them to create more gender-friendly school environments. Possible routes for improvement are suggested.