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Violence at schools: Fifteen year old arrested for stabbing

The recent stabbing and death of a school boy near a secondary school in Wellington was reported with the usual mixture of sensationalist terms and bland comment. While one is grateful that the learners, teachers and witnesses will be receiving counselling, it hardly seems the pertinent point. Reports stated that the Department of Education had arranged for this. I salute them, but since when is it their responsibility to deal with crime? Lazy and un-caring teachers will always find ways of doing the minimum. Overloaded and responsible teachers are bowed under the workload, the absurd amount of admin, the constantly changing curricula, the increasing numbers of pupils that lack discipline and the desire to learn. More and more is expected of educators, while parents shrug and blame.

Parental Influence and Violence

Recently a police warning was broadcast that crystal meth dealers were targeting a certain area. I walked past the primary school at close of the school day, and exactly three parents were waiting to walk their children home. On my way there I had passed umpteen homes where adults were; some merely sitting. The litany of complaints about unemployment is endless. Why, I wonder, do unemployed parents not rally together and at the very least take turns to accompany children to and from school? Has this too now become the responsibility of the schools? How easily we absolve ourselves! The primary example of how to behave is in the home. Children do not disappear into a vacuum before and after they attend school. Whatever they experience at home and on the streets is brought into the classroom with them. Many teachers have many faults, but this one cannot be laid at their door.

The dad hits his son because he has just hit his sister. However, the boy did it because the night before he had seen his father hit his mother. The cycle of violence continues because children always follow the example they grow up with. We can never say to a child to ‘do as I say, don’t do as I do’. The imprinting is much stronger than the reprimand. Parents need to look seriously at their own behaviour. Telling a child not to use drugs is less that worthless if we use the odd recreational drug ourselves. Screaming at a child to not use drugs is more likely to make him/her feel a nuisance and go into the street to find ready-made ‘feel good’ substances because certainly love and acceptance is not to be obtained from the people he/she is supposed to get it from. If the child sees ‘his’ adults regularly indulge in cigarettes…. why, tik is just another thing to smoke! The wrestling channel on T.V. is daily fare in millions of homes. The deification of brutality is in our homes. Aggression, destruction and cruelty are admired. The sheer volume of blood and violence that pours into children’s souls desensitizes with deathly effectiveness. And parents watch and cheer it on! These are the heroes we uphold to our children. We need to be rigorous with ourselves before we blame the school, the police or the gangsters.

Our Violent Society

What was really disturbing was that facebook responses called for a return to corporal punishment. Some people actually criticized Madiba for abolishing it! Desperate as I see teachers are, as they have to perform miracles yet have no recourse, hitting children is surely not the answer. School may be the only place in some children’s lives where they see adults (hopefully) treat each other and children with respect. Surely hitting pupils will only hit home the message that hitting is right. If educated people with the impulse to uplift others do it, why not do it too? If violence in schools is sanctioned, we have no guarantees that tired, over-worked educators will always use it conscientiously.

Police brutality has reached appalling levels, but the police also come from this same society, and people under stress resort to what is familiar. Add to this a position of authority and the protection of a group dynamic, and the misuse of power is a temptation to us all. Yet, once a crime has been committed, it is surely the responsibility of the police to implement the criminal justice system with integrity.

Politics and Violence

Teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, the police have extra moral imperatives: They have to be more thoughtful, more responsible, and have more self discipline than other professions. It comes with the territory. The same applies to parenthood of course, but the element of conscious choice is not so central to this job!

However, what makes things murky is that people ‘get away’ with being violent. Violence is so acceptable in our society that the wrongness of it is often not questioned. The Cape Flats is a criminal hotbed, but hardly because it is in the DA ruled Western Cape. Yet the glee that accompanies reports on crime in the Western Cape obscures the issues we should all be concerned about, wherever they occur. The public should have free access to crime statistic everywhere, as we had better get real about it! To exploit victims of crime for political purpose is lower than low. Let us not do this, please!

FAS and other facts

Foetal alcohol syndrome has a wide range of symptoms. Degrees of lack of consequential thinking is but one; the real life implications are too complicated to contemplate in this context. Another symptom is the inability to distinguish between phantasy and reality. Imagine the world inhabited by the child who does not separate what he sees on television and what is acceptable behaviour. Surely we have enough studies done on juvenile criminals that offer, as explanation as to why they had perpetrated the horror, “I saw it on T.V.”

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