Dynamics of school-based violence : exploring school governing bodies in addressing violence in post-conflict South African school.
There is a growing and widespread problem of violence in South African schools which ultimately results in problems of governance and management. School violence manifests itself in many forms including discipline problems such as fighting among learners, bullying, utterances of crude and sexist remarks against fellow learners and teachers, racism, stabbings, shootings at schools and even murder. According to a report by the South African Institute of Race Relations (2008), South African schools are among the most dangerous in the world. This SAIRR report followed media reports of school violence and lawlessness of all kinds engulfing South African schools. Surveys conducted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation (2005) on school violence found that only 23% of South African learners felt safe at school. Working within the emancipatory paradigm and employing a qualitative methodological approach, this case study explored the role of school governing bodies in addressing violence in South African schools. Conceptualised within the social control and social reproduction theories, this study aimed to: elicit perceptions and experiences of school governors and other school members about school violence in the four case schools; to explore the initiatives employed by school governing bodies to combat school violence; and to investigate if school governing bodies are the most appropriate tools to reduce violence in post-conflict South African schools. All ethical issues were observed before data was generated. To ensure trustworthiness of findings, multiple data generation instruments such as semi-structured and focus group interviews, observations and documents review were utilised. Content analysis was employed to analyse the data. Social control and social reproduction theories were utilised as overarching analytical framework to analyse the data. The conclusions arrived at indicate that SGBs face a cocktail of challenges in curbing school violence and maintaining discipline and safety among learners; some learners view their schools as not doing enough to address violence against them and thus resort to taking the law into their hands to ensure that justice is done; some schools do not follow ‘due process’ when charging the learners for misconduct; the majority of participants expressed doubts about the SGBs as the most appropriate tools to deal with school violence. Based on the findings and conclusions, this study recommends a ‘whole-school and integrated approach’ to addressing school violence.
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