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An exploration of child offenders in the rural area of Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal province.

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The problem of child and youth offenders is a worldwide problem generally. Thus, the rural area of Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is no exception to this problem. The statistics of child offenders in the area of this study has increased rapidly in the past three (03) financial years and the levels of criminal activities that children engage in gets more serious every yearly. This study looks at the contributory factors that underpin child offending within the rural area of Ixopo in KZN. The qualitative research approach was followed in this study and purposive sampling was adopted to gather data from one (01) Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with six (06) Social Workers from the local Department of Social Development (DSD) of Ixopo area. Furthermore, face-to-face Semi-Structured Interviews (SSI) with twelve (12) children in conflict with the law, 12 guardians and parents of these children were utilised. Overall, this study consisted of 30 selected participants. This study also interpreted documents, including the official assessment reports and pre-sentence reports done on these twelve (12) children. The data analysis of this study involved seven stages of phenomenological inquiry. For findings of this study, it was established that the Social workers feel that the issues relating to broken families, lack of resources to ensure proper implementation of the available programs and policies contribute on child offending. It was also reported that the children guardians and parents believe that media influence, economic stress and absence of father figures are the major push factors to child offenders. In collaborations, the high rate of single parents and child headed household were also on top of discussions with the selected participants. In the documentary study, it was evident that these children have lost ambition and consequently see no hope outside the life of crime and they were all school dropouts; this was supported by the consulted literature and legislative framework, which presented the history and development of the Juvenile Justice System (JJS), drawing back from the ancient times up to the present moment. In this analysis, the researcher noted a great transformation, more especially with the Child Justice Act [CJA] (Act No. 75 of 2008) and other introductory governmental policies developed to respond to this subject effectively. In this analysis it was also confirmed that the topic under research is about to reach saturation. However, the present study showed that there was a big gap in the body of knowledge, since there is a lack of studies conducted in the rural areas and this study fills that lacuna. Through this study, it is acknowledged that child offending might be common in nature and extent; however, the circumstances surrounding these practices vary from place-to-place and the intolerable vast environmental factors plays a pivotal role in the high rate of child offenders. For recommendation, the grassroots of child offenders are difficult to determine, since the contributory factors differs but associated to social factors, secondary to these current strategies is ineffectiveness to address the associated crime as it is deeply rooted to elusive factors, which Social workers nor the local police or other relevant stakeholders can manage. This study concluded that more research needs to be done especially in the rural areas of South Africa in general and KZN specifically. The studies in question should focus on larger groups of people in different rural communities across the country or KZN to understand the depth of this problem and hopefully inform relevant and effective interventions.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.