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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


DAVIDS, Nuraan  and  WAGHID, Yusef. On speaking to violence in post-apartheid schools. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.4, pp.681-693. ISSN 2224-7912.

The prevalence of violence in South African (notably disadvantaged) schools has shifted from the apartheid to the post-apartheid landscape. The levels of violence in post-apartheid (notably disadvantaged) schools is so rampant that researchers have shown that children have a greater chance of encountering violence in schools than in their homes (Leoschut & Bonora 2007:107). Adding to this scourge is the fact that violent behaviour and language cut across learner upon teacher; and teacher upon learner, and seems to be as ubiquitous among girls, as it is among boys. To this end, violence has not only brought untold humiliation and harm to teachers, and more tragically, death to learners, but has forced schools to redefine the way in which they function, and indeed, if they function at all. Under pressure to provide safe classrooms and playing fields, educational leaders have often resorted to measures of equal violence in the form of humiliation, isolation, exclusion, and of course physical harm, even though corporal punishment is prohibited. As such, educational leaders and teachers have also begun to understand violence as the only language of response. Mncube and Harber (2013:14) report increased levels of violence upon learners, particularly from male teachers, which include corporal punishment, physical assault, and rape. Consequently, the dilemma is that if teachers are resorting to violence in order to restore orderly behaviour among learners, who, and how, will order be restored among teachers? The response from the national Department of Basic Education has been a flurry of policies, strategies linked to safe(r) schools initiatives; various programmes to capacitate teachers to manage disciplinary problems and identify learners at risk; as well as random drug searches and testing. In turn, schools located in (historically) disadvantaged communities have surrounded their schools in barbed wire fencing; introduced access control via community members or neighbourhood patrols; restricted playing fields, which probably curbs the scope of violence inasmuch as it promotes it through confined spaces. With the levels of violence continuing to spiral, it has become clear that repeated forms of condemnation, policy re-strategising and punitive measures have not only been inadequate, but have laid bare the sheer unpredictability of violence and its forms. What appears to be missing from the myriad strategies and policies is that the learners, who commit the acts of violence and humiliation, come from particular communities and social constructions, which exist outside of the school, and where violence might be a norm, rather than an exception. To assume, therefore, that the behaviour of unruly or violent learners might be remedied as separate from these communities, is to discount, on the one hand, that each learner enters a school with his or her own community. And on the other hand, that although these acts of violence might happen on school premises, they are in fact as much school-based problems as they are society-based. What this means is that the response to violence cannot simply be from the vantage point of what schools ought to teach and do, or what is good for a school only. Any response to violence in schools also has to be in the best interest of society, because the learner cannot be divorced from the society of which he or she is a part. This article commences by exploring, on the one hand, the nature and prevalence of violence in South African schools, and on the other hand, the inadequacies of current policies and strategies in creating and cultivating safe schools. Following on this, we offer an interpretive analysis of how to think about violence - that is, as a necessary part of a democratic citizenship. To this end, we explore how a citizenship education of becoming can deal with the unpredictable consequences of violence in its own potentiality. Our intention is not to offer a remedy to violence in schools. Such an attempt would presuppose that we understand the nature of violence - which we do not, and cannot understand. Instead, we turn to Rancière's (1991:15) notion of summoning individuals to use their intelligence, so that they might use their speech to respond to acts of violence.

Keywords : Violence; post-apartheid schools; citizenship education; encounters; summoning to speech; enframing; school community becoming; co-belonging; potentiality.

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