Curb school violence

Curb school violence

A FEW weeks ago, school violence in neighbouring South Africa made the headlines again. This time around a 24-year-old teacher was stabbed to death by a 17-year-old student in full view of other students at Zeerust in North West.
In another case a 15-year-old boy from Eldorado Park Secondary School in Gauteng was arrested after he allegedly pointed a gun at his teacher.
These are not an isolated cases as there is widespread concern in the country over the safety of both learners and teachers in South African schools. SADTU and Naptosa, two South African teacher formations, blame the Department of Education for failing to protect teachers in schools.

On the other hand, the ruling African National Congress is also concerned by the spike in violence in South African schools. Prof Corene de Vet and Dr Lynnette Jacobs have researched and written extensively on school violence in both South Africa and Lesotho.
Their findings have indicated that there is high level of violence in schools and schools have become vulnerable and are no longer safe for both learners and teachers.
In Lesotho, not long ago, a group of boys were found in possession of guns in a school in the Berea district. Although not many cases have yet been reported in Lesotho, we do not have to wait long for the influx of cases as what happens in South Africa has an influence of what takes place in Lesotho.

School violence happens among students themselves and between students and teachers. School violence has in the past been perpetrated by teachers against students as corporal punishment was rife.
Unfortunately, school violence stands against the pillars of education as pronounced by international standards, norms and protocols.
For instance, the late former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (1998) once pronounced that “education is a human right – with immense power to reform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable development. There is no higher priority, no mission more important, than that of education for all”.

In the case of Lesotho, at the international level, Lesotho has committed to the Sustainable Development Goals, the “Education for All” agenda and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, amongst other international and regional conventions, treaties, protocols, agreements and declarations.

The right of all children to quality basic education is formally recognised in the National Constitution of Lesotho, which stipulates in Section 28 that Lesotho shall endeavour to make education available to all, that education will be directed to the full development of the human personality, individual dignity and respect for human rights and fundamental freedom.

In addition, the Lesotho Education Act 2010, Section 4(4) stipulates that, a learner shall not be subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment whilst the Child Protection and Welfare Act (CPWA) 2011 reiterates the right of every child to education, without discrimination or exclusion on any basis (neither disability, pregnancy, initiation, cultural rituals or other factors); and the right of every child to express his/her opinion freely and to have that opinion taken into account, in any matter affecting the child.

Just like the South African Schools Act of 1996, the Lesotho Education Act 2010 protects learners against violence in schools, particularly corporal punishment by teachers.
However, both Education Acts are silent when it comes to violence against teachers in schools. Teachers are becoming more vulnerable by the day as there is no form of legislation to protect them.
In South Africa, the teacher unions have already aired their dissatisfaction with regard to the vulnerability of their members in schools. It is time for Lesotho teacher unions to also embark on talks with the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) regarding their safety in schools.

As the teacher unions are currently in talks with the MoET regarding their working conditions, they should also negotiate the ways and means in which school violence can be curbed even before it becomes a national crisis for us.

This is the time to develop legislation, either in the form of an Act or a policy that will deal directly with violence in schools. There is also need for nationwide awareness campaigns in our schools as an endeavour to nip violence in the bud before it spirals out of control.

There are already unconfirmed reports of rampant violence taking place in our schools. There are learners that kill each other with knives, there are also rumoured cases of teachers sleeping with learners. Before these cases get out of hand, there is need for all those in the noble teaching profession to take the bull by the horns before it is too late to do anything.

By: Kelello Rakolobe

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