As we come to the end of child protection week, the daily headlines remind us of our education system’s responsibility to do more to ensure the safety and security of our children in schools. Over the past few months, we have seen the death of another young learner falling in a pit latrine, the South African Human Rights Commission holding public hearings into the deaths of 3 learners in a special school hostel fire and countless reports of knife attacks, gang fights and ongoing corporal punishment in schools.
Violence in schools is a significant barrier to learning and is one that effects an alarming number of South African children. Inclusive Education South Africa was visiting a school in Cape Town during exams when shots rang out. Learners screamed in terror and dived under their desks as a vehicle was being hijacked on the school premises. Completely traumatised, learners had to try to continue to finish writing their exam. These are surely not the conditions under which we expect children to learn and flourish.
This is not a new concern. Children in South African schools have been exposed to unacceptably high levels of violence for far too long. Despite the change in law banning corporal punishment in 1996, teachers still believe that hitting children with canes, sticks, black board dusters or anything close at hand is an acceptable form of discipline. When will the cycle of violence be broken? When will our children feel safe at schools and not terrified of violence from a “trusted” teacher, fellow classmate or unsafe infrastructure?
We need to come up with solutions involving all school stakeholders to make our schools safe. We need to hold government, schools and parents accountable. We need to put our children first and prioritise their safety, well being and learning. Each one of us has a role to play. You can be a part of the solution by ending violence in your home, demonstrating love, acceptance and positive behaviour reinforcement. Stand up against violence in our schools! Make sure you hold your child’s school accountable and join in to make our school environments places of safety and learning once more.
IE Consultant for Inclusive Education South Africa