'SA schools gripped by violence'

There has been a surge in school violence across the country, affecting all sectors of society.

There has been a surge in school violence across the country, affecting all sectors of society. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - A surge in school violence affecting all sectors of society has come in to sharp focus in recent weeks, sparking debate among experts and educators.

The latest incident involved a grade 8 learner who was stabbed in the stomach at a Knysna High School last month.

A grade 10 pupil has since been arrested in connection with the incident which is thought to be gang-related.

During a symposium on discipline and violence in schools last month, school governing bodies and Education Department officials agreed it's time to claim schools back from the five percent of unruly pupils on behalf of the "silent majority".

While some experts attribute the violence to an acute lack of discipline, Professor Khalil Osiris, founder of Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports Africa (PBIS Africa)believes it's all about engaging with a child and recognising that they are part of our society, rather than "othering" them.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's Redi Tlhabi on Monday, Osiris said behaviour never happens in isolation and always occurs in the context of culture.

"When we talk about developing systemic change in schools, what we're talking about is changing the culture. It's about creating shared culture, shared language and creating shared practices on a daily basis."

Khalil explained that children are verbally aggressive to teachers on a scale hard to imagine.

"If you think back to the days of when we went to school and days gone by when pupils simply respected teachers. We have this wonderful saying that it takes a village to raise a child. My question is; what happens when our elders are dysfunctional?"

He said society must celebrate pupils who strive to do the best they can.

"We need to build more of that from the standpoint that each of us as individuals has an obligation to make some contribution to society. Barack Obama said it best when he said Madiba inspired him to be a better man, we as adults should take that same philosophy when we look at every child."