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Cosas warns of growing violence amongst children

Congress of South African Students (Cosas) is claiming that South African children are becoming more violent, according to ENCA.

The organisation has suggested that we could possibly counter this by having pupils visit prisons so that they can know where this sort of behaviour leads.

Cosas’ expression of concern followed the murder of Thoriso Themane.

According to Sowetan LIVE, Themane was found beaten and bloody at the Flora Park, dying a short while later in hospital.

Two videos of his beating were taken. His attackers could be heard telling him he was going to die.

Five suspects, all school pupils, have been arrested.

In August of 2018, News24 reported that rape and murder were on the rise in South Africa, and that an estimated 110 children raped and 49 killed daily in the country.

In June of that year, ENCA reported that a study by the University of Cape Town found that one in three children in South Africa are abused.

In May of that year, IOL reported that 41% of rapes in South Africa are committed against children.

Earlier this month a teacher was arrested for sexually abusing children at Valhalla Primary School in Centurion, Pretoria according to News24.

IOL reported that a teacher at a school in Tlhatlaganyane, outside Rustenburg, was hospitalised after one of the parents beat assaulted her with an umbrella.

TimesLIVE reports that the Sans Souci Girls’ High teacher who slapped a grade nine pupil has appeared in court on a charge of common assault.

My Take

Okay, so the first thing is, is this true? Are our pupils getting more violent?

I haven’t found anything dealing specifically with child perpetrators, but looking at Crime Stats SA, since 2009 there has been a drop in absolute numbers of reported sexual offenses, assaults, and attempted murders. Between 2009 to 2012 there was also a drop in murders, but that went up again from 2013 onwards.

I figure this is a good proxy because violent children upon turning 18 won’t suddenly become peaceable sorts overnight.

So are we getting more violent? Probably not. What we have here is more likely a case of violence being more readily reported on, meaning that we’re more aware of it rather than more it is going on.

That said some people will take violence amongst our children as an argument for reintroducing corporal punishment.

So lets look at the evidence for whether corporal punishment has lowered, or raised rates of violence amongst our youth.

The ban on corporal punishment happened in 2000. Now prior to the ban, research by CSVR reported that:

Levels of serious crime have been increasing fairly consistently since the mid 1980s. There was a surge in the number of reported crimes in 1993/94. This surge was, however, primarily because of a statistical quirk. In 1994 the ten ‘black homelands’ with a combined population of 17.8 million were reincorporated into the rest of the country. Crimes committed in the homelands territories were captured by the South African Police Service’s statistical net for the first time only then.

So prior to the ban there was a consistent rise in serious crimes.

In 2002, the Institute of Security Studies reported the following:

Between 1997 and 2000 there was a steady increase in the annual number of recorded crimes. The first nine months of 2001 saw an end to this trend. During 2001 the rate of increase in recorded crime diminished markedly. Moreover, for the first time in years, violent crime increased at a lower rate than most other crime categories.

So there wasn’t an immediate uptick in serious crimes following banning corporal punishment, if anything there was the reverse.

So, how are we ending up with such violence amongst our youth, even if it isn’t necessarily getting worse?

I am going to quote a paragraph from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, regarding the impact of child abuse on children, regarding violent behaviour.

In addition to feeling pain and suffering themselves, children exposed to abuse and neglect are at increased risk of inflicting pain on others and developing aggressive and violent behaviours in adolescence (Gilbert et al., 2009; Haapasalo & Pokela, 1999; Maas, Herrenkohl, & Sousa, 2008; Trickett et al., 2011). Research suggests that physical abuse and exposure to family violence are the most consistent predictors of youth violence (Gilbert et al., 2009; Maas et al., 2008). In a meta-analysis by Gilbert and colleagues, both prospective and retrospective studies indicated strong associations between child abuse and neglect and criminal behaviour. A National Institute of Justice study in the United States predicted that abused and neglected children were 11 times more likely to be arrested for criminal behaviour in adolescence (English, Widom, & Brandford, 2004). Eighty three per cent of children in the Take Two program in Victoria demonstrated repeated and severe violence towards others (Frederico et al., 2008).

This is where abuse in South Africa is relevant. Not every child who was abused will become an abuser, but we know higher rates of abuse correlate to higher rates of violence.

And we must also look at the examples we set. Teachers should not assault students, parents should not assault teachers, because what example is being set?

We cannot expect children to act better than the adults guiding them, so we as adults, if we want better children, have to behave better.

If we are to make a better country, it is going to require us to have the honesty to be better people, to look at ourselves at individuals, and act the way we would want others to act.

Because what we do as individuals echoes through the whole of society. If we behave dishonestly, that dishonesty will enter the system, if we act violently that violence becomes part of the system.

But if we act well, that too becomes a part of the system.

What each individual does is a drop in the ocean, and the change one person can bring about isn’t going to be huge, but if enough drops work together, you get that ocean of change.

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