Learners' experiences of gender-based violence : a case study at a co-educational primary school in Durban.
This is a qualitative study of girls’ and boys’ understanding and experiences of genderbased violence in one co-educational primary school in KwaZulu-Natal. The study sought to get insights into the problem of gender-based violence by investigating the lived experiences of both male and female learners within the school context. The aim of the study was to unveil forms of gender-based violence that the learners experience and some contributory factors, as well as the strategies for alleviating gender-based violence in this schooling context. The study adopted a qualitative case study research design. It employed semi-structured interviews as its method of data collection and these took the form of focus group interviews and individual in-depth interviews. A total of eight learners (four girls and four boys) participated in the study. The study found that there was a high incidence of gender-based violence in the school under study. This took the form of demeaning gendered comments, unfounded sexual rumours, sexualized gestures and jokes, sexual harassment, bullying and corporal punishment. Some school spaces, peer pressure, media and dominant discourses of gender were found to be some factors contributing to gender-based violence in this school. The findings indicate that boys are the group most culpable of continuing the cycle of genderbased violence by perpetrating acts of aggression on others learners. Boys drew on dominant discourses of gender in this context, which generally accord power to masculinities, at the expense of femininities. The resultant inequitable gendered power relations played a vital role in the perpetuation of the cycle of gender-based violence in the school. The study also finds that school teachers too were implicated in acts of gendervii based violence, which mainly took the form of assaulting learners, both male and female. In addition, teachers display a general acceptance of gender-based violence incidents as normal children’s behaviour, and take no remedial actions to stop such abuses. The study offers some suggestions that relevant stakeholders could employ to address gender-based violence at schools. These include supplementing teacher education curriculum, to provide training on how to deal with gender-based violence, a campaign to bring about greater awareness in schools and in the communities where parents are involved, additional professional support for schools and setting up structures for learner peer support.