Spotlight: partnerships to make schools and homes safe

2018-11-01

ISS research fellow Dr Chandre Gould, an expert on the prevention of violence against children, was selected to deliver the keynote address at the National School Safety Summit in October 2018.

The meeting was convened by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in collaboration with police and other government departments, in response to a culture of school violence which undermines effective learning and teaching. Challenges in South African schools include gang violence, weapons, sexual violence, bullying, assault and robbery. A Save the Children South Africa study found the cost of violence against children was a staggering R238 billion in 2015, about the same as the basic education budget.

Gould’s invitation stems from the success of the national Dialogue Forum, which convenes government, academics and civil society in a long-term collaboration to understand and address violence against women and children. The ISS is a founding convenor of the forum, which has demonstrated impact at the highest levels of government.

Gould drew the link between school safety and the physical and emotional violence which children experience at home and in their communities. ‘It affects their educational outcomes and wellbeing,’ she told delegates from teacher unions, learner representatives, school governing bodies, faith-based organisations plus business, development partners and academics.

She talked about her own Western Cape community of Touwsranten, which has seen a reduction in violence following many years of parent and child support programmes. Gould gave delegates a message of cautious hope. ‘Children experience far too much violence in South Africa, but we understand the problem and are working towards solutions.’

She shared her experience of interviewing repeat violent offenders in prison, and how their crimes invariably started with violence in their homes, schools and early lives. ‘We know that children who experience violence are more likely to be violent themselves, to use drugs, leave school early or have risky sexual relationships,’ she told the summit.

Gould’s speech was inspirational to teachers and school staff who deal with violence every day

Gould’s speech was extremely well received. Deputy education minister Enver Surty described it as ‘challenging and refreshing’. Minister Motshekga asked for a copy, and the Department of Basic Education’s chief director social inclusion and partnerships in education, Patricia Watson, said Gould’s presentation had helped to consolidate the summit.

Gould’s keynote was inspirational to teachers and school staff who deal with violence every day, said Matodzi Amisi, a monitoring and evaluation specialist at Witwatersrand University and participant in the Dialogue Forum. ‘They discovered that their challenges are understood and that it’s possible to end violence against children. The work of the Dialogue Forum is creating a new energy and a credible belief that the problem can be tackled.’

Gould produced data showing one in three children experiences violence, and that one in five children in South Africa has been sexually abused. ‘This was not violence caused by war, but violence at home, at the hands of people who should love and care for children, violence in neighbourhoods and at school,’ she said. ‘These are places where they should be safe and have the space to play, learn and grow.’

Fixing the problem called for the creation of safe communities, protective loving families, respectful, positive classrooms, and orderly schools. This required support from leaders who believe in the call for non-violence, including ministers, faith leaders, political party activists, teachers, unions, parents and learners.

Gould proposed a number of solutions, including for children’s own needs and solutions to be heard. She pointed to ways the Department of Basic Education is promoting accountability with protocols for schools to report the incidence of corporal punishment and sexual violence.

Resources need to be allocated appropriately, ensuring that civil society organisations delivering violence prevention services are sustainably funded. A national audit of violence prevention programmes was required. Gould suggested that programmes to encourage positive parenting and prevent violence should be extended to all government employees, noting that the benefit far outweighed the cost. 

Click here to watch a powerful new film about violence against children, made by the ISS with its Dialogue Forum partners, that was shown at the summit.

For more information contact:

Chandre Gould, ISS: +27 83 305 4915, cgould@issafrica.org

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