|www.corpun.com : Archive : 1997 : ZA Schools Apr 1997|
Corpun file 1374 at www.corpun.com
Cape Argus, Cape Town, 24 April 1997
City schools turning into battlefields
Violence is becoming rife at schools in the city, and a Newlands principal has warned that action is needed urgently to prevent playing fields turning into battlegrounds.
High school heads blame worsening violence on television and film violence, drug abuse, gangs and the abolition of corporal punishment.
Several principals report that old-fashioned playground brawls are becoming serious assaults.
This is in keeping with what has become the "accepted norm" of a violent society portrayed on television and in films, they say.
In one case, a matric pupil and martial arts expert hit a younger boy so hard after a school dance at SACS in Newlands that he had to have reconstructive surgery.
A teacher at a Wynberg school confirmed an incident in which a boy jumping the tuck shop queue during break was stabbed with a breadknife.
In Brackenfell, Standard 8 classes at two schools were recently reported to be planning to "sort things out" in gangland style on a secret battlefield after school.
But police got wind of the imminent war and intervened by closing in on the instigators before the planned battle.
SACS headmaster Gordon Law cited a "lack of respect for people and property" and the increasing "physical approach" by boys as major reasons for the increase in schoolground violence.
"In the mass media, but especially on television and in cinemas, everything is settled by some sort of violence," he said.
"School children are impressionable and easily influenced. When a famous cricketer appearing on television wears a certain headband or whatever, the next day half the school wears them.
"The same counts for violence; it became fashion overnight."
Mr Law urged: "Bring back corporal punishment. A good whack or two on the behind is not child abuse or violence, it is just effective punishment."
He said that punishment consisted of detention or picking up rubbish, while teachers had to hire security guards to keep watch on school functions such as discos. The "warning signs" were there and he appealed to the community to act now before schoolfields turned into battlefields
Mr Law expressed shock over last week's incident at his school, which happened after a disco.
The increase in drug abuse in schools and gangsters peddling drugs were also factors that introduced violence in schools, according to a Claremont teacher.
Schools in some Cape Flats areas known for gangsterism had a different view of playground violence.
Teachers in Guguletu, Khayelitsha, Mitchell's Plain and Lavender Hill reported a gang culture among pupils of all ages.
Faseed Manie, deputy principal of Lavender Hill Senior Secondary School, said teachers treated the problem by addressing the underlying family or social causes, rather than with a "cut and dried" punishment approach.
"Yes, it is true that many of our children belong to gangs, or at least associate with gangsters, but the true picture is not one of a school that is paralysed in the grip of gangs," said Mr Manie.
"When we detect a problem with a pupil, we try to turn a negative situation into a positive one by instilling a sense of ownership and responsibility into parents.
"The pupil will realise that we care and that he would be a good candidate for rehabilitation. But we need the support of the broader community.
"It is a dagger in my heart when the headmasters of some Model C schools ask us before a sports meeting whether it is safe and calm at our school."
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