July10-Final.pdf
H.A. Akinsola
303–328
and N.J. Ramakuela
Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies…
THE
INDIAN JOURNAL
OF
SOCIAL WORK
Tata Institute
of
Volume 71, Issue 3
Social Sciences
July 2010
ARTICLES
Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and
Preventive Strategies for Violence-
Related Behaviours Among South African
High School Children
A Survey Among Teachers in Rural Vhembe District
H.A. AKINSOLA AND N.J. RAMAKUELA
The trend in violent acts in South African schools since independence has shown a
steady rise, and the situation only continues to get worse. The litany of violent crimes in
schools in the recent past alone is a sign that the situation is not abating. For example,
in the past months, many students and other individuals have either been seriously
injured or murdered by other students. The study seeks to determine teachers’
perceived prevalence, determinants and preventive strategies for interpersonal violent
behaviour in secondary schools within Vhembe District. The study uses a quantitative
cross-sectional design and all the teachers in the 10 randomly selected schools were
eligible to participate in the study. The instrument of data collection was a questionnaire
and the data was analysed descriptively using the SPSS. The study showed that the
causes of violent behaviour in the schools included in the study are multi-faceted and,
therefore, the strategies to address the problem must also operate at a variety of levels.
Prof. H.A. Hakinsola is with the School of Health Sciences, Department of Public
Health, and Ms. N.J. Ramakuela is Lecturer, Department of Nursing Science, School
of Health Sciences, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, South Africa.
INTRODUCTION
Earls, Cairns and Mercy (1993) observed that in everyday usage, violence
refers to the exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse, while
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

304
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
interpersonal violence refers to a class of actions that have qualitatively
different consequences from other social behaviours, namely, the inten-
tional infliction of pain and injury through physical force. The Report of
the Surgeon General
(US Surgeon General, 2007) explained that violent
behaviour among the youth can be defined as behavioural patterns marked
by aggressiveness, antisocial behaviour, verbal abuse and externalising,
that is, the acting of feelings. The focus of this study is not on violence in
general, but interpersonal violence with specific reference to physical
fighting and other anti-social behaviours, such as bullying and harassing.
Pickett, Craig, Harel, Cunnigham, Simpson, Molcho, Mazur, Dostaler,
Overpeck and Currie (2005) refer to physical fighting as a manifestation of
interpersonal violence among adolescents which, according to the US Sur-
geon General (2007), may be characterised by violent physical interactions
such as hitting, slapping, and fist fighting. Bullying is a repeated pattern of
aggressive behaviour directed towards another person who has less status
or power (Rigby, 1997). Aggression in the case of bullying may not neces-
sarily be physical but may take the form of emotional and verbal abuse,
threats, as well as exclusion in which a person directly or indirectly ostra-
cises another person from a social group (Delfabbro, Winefield, Trainor,
Dollard, Anderson, Metzer and Hammarstrom, 2006).
Several causes and risk factors are associated with interpersonal vio-
lence among students. Talking Points (2007) categorised the causes and
risk factors of school violence as follows:
Access to weapons, whereby teens acquire and carry guns.
Cyber and television abuse: Students who have access to violent
video games and watch violent films on television hold more
‘pro-violent attitudes’.
Influence of school environment: In some schools, drugs are being
sold and there are gangs and negative peer influence is an issue. The
size of the school is also a risk factor as large schools tend to
experience discipline problem.
Community environment: As with schools and families, communities
can neglect their children. If a community is not responsive to the needs
of families and their children, this neglect can develop into violence.
Family environment: Although, culturally, parents are expected to
deal with childhood problems, the challenges facing many parents
make it difficult for them to meet all their children’s need. If parents
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 305
fail to nurture and reinforce positive behaviour, children may exhibit
violent behaviour patterns in the school.
According to Rudatsikira, Siziya, Kazembe and Muula (2007), interper-
sonal violence is an important global health problem. The economic burden
of interpersonal violence in some countries is estimated to be about 4% of
the gross national product (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi and Lozano, 2002).
Globally, interpersonal violence is ranked as the fifth leading cause of death
in 15–44 years age group and the proportion of 13-year olds that report en-
gaging in bullying once a week ranges from 1.2% in England and Sweden to
7.6% in the United States of America (USA) to 9.7% in Latvia (Mercy,
Butchart, Farrington and Cerda, 2002). A study in Malaysia (Lai-Kah, Chen
and Kick-Kit, 2007) shows that in 2001, 27.9% of adolescents in the age
group of 12–19 years had been involved in a physical fight within the last 12
months preceding the survey. In Namibia, Rudatsikira and others (2007)
found that of the 6,283 respondents, 50.6% (55.2% males and 46.2% fe-
males) reported having been in a physical fight in the past 12 months.
African countries, south of the Sahara, currently face a number of prob-
lems, such as high unemployment, persistent poverty, the HIV/AIDS bur-
den, and high crime rate. The profound impact of high crime rate on a society
cannot be underestimated. Violent crime creates serious human tragedy and
can seriously impact negatively on socioeconomic development. According
to Roopnarain (1999), violent crime is currently South African’s most press-
ing problem which is affecting every sector of the population. Roopnarain
(1999) observed that the discussion of ‘endemic’ violence conveys the
premise that such violence is widespread, common, and deeply entrenched
in most societies. It is so prevalent and widely tolerated that it has come to be
perceived almost as normative and to a large extent accepted rather than
challenged. Masuku (2002) categorised violent crime into (i) interpersonal
violent crime, which refers to murder, attempted murder, serious and com-
mon assaults, and rape; and (ii) violent property crime which includes all cat-
egories of robbery. According to Masuku (2002), between 1994–1995 and
2000–2001, violent crime increased by 33%, in South Africat, the highest in-
crease in any crime category.
Since education and educational structures are not excluded from the
stress and challenges that are being experienced by individuals in South
African society, today, aggression and violent crime has also become a
major problem in South African schools (Poggenpoel and Myburgh,
2006). However, one can observe that school violence is an issue in most
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

306
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
countries of the world. According to Galand, Lecocq and Philippot (2007),
school violence is a growing concern in many Western countries and stud-
ies about this are flourishing. For example, with regards to the USA, there
were 32 school-associated violent deaths between July 1, 1999, and June
30, 2000, 16 of which involved children of school-going age. In 2003, 5%
of students in the USA, aged 12–18 years reported being victims of
non-fatal crimes, 4% reported being victims of theft, and 1% reported
being victims of violent incidents (US Department of Education, 2004).
The latest report of the Surgeon General also detailed the nature and extent
of youth violence in schools in the USA (US Surgeon General, 2007).
The trend in violent acts in South African schools since independence
has shown a steady rise and to date, the situation continues to get worse.
The series of violent crimes in the schools in recent past alone is a sign that
the situation is not abating. For example, in the past months, many students
and other individuals have either been seriously injured or murdered by
students. The following account from the Daily Sun shows the extent of the
problem: drunken kids run wild (August 23, 2007); pupils burn gogos
(September 6, 2007); the real blame for the children who dance with de-
mons: their parents (September 17, 2007); they stabbed him seven times
(September 20, 2007); accused kids (for murder) out on bail (September
21, 2007); schoolboy stabbed while praying (September 25, 2007); pupil
charged with school girl’s murder (October 3, 2007); and ‘why did you kill
my son?’ (October 11, 2007). During the 8 o’clock news by the South Afri-
can Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on December 19, 2007, a statement
was made that nowadays, in schools, the machete seemed to be mightier
than the pen. This was in reference to an incident whereby a 16-year old
boy was murdered by one of his colleagues over an argument on 2 Rands
(about 25 American cents) during a game of gambling.
According to Felson and Tedeschi (1993), the forms of aggression in
schools include: acts of hitting, hurting and shoving, injuring, irritating, un-
provoked physical aggression, and mildly provoked verbal aggression. An
account of violence in South African schools given by Vally, Dolombisa and
Porteus (1999) shows that murder is a major outcome of violence in the
schools. According to Vally and others (1999), in the past three months
alone, educators, parents and students alike have been murdered in schools:
a school principal was murdered in Soweto;
a pre-school teacher was murdered in full view of 60 children in
Gauteng;
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 307
Rose Mnisi was murdered as she walked home from her school in the
Northern Province;
a school bus driver was murdered in the presence of 85 learners;
a Grade 12 pupil was stabbed by a fellow student; and
a parent was shot while waiting in his car for his daughter outside her
secondary school.
Rationale for the Study
According to Galand and others (2007), in spite of the fact that there are
many studies on school violence, most of them have focused almost exclu-
sively on students. Consequently, precursors and consequences of vio-
lence experienced by teachers are less documented (Lorion, 1998).
Nicolaides, Toda and Smith (2002) observed that in most studies, teachers
are considered as a source of information about student behaviour or as im-
plementers of programmes, but are rarely considered as witnesses or vic-
tims of school violence. Judging from available literature, one can observe
that in South Africa, like other developing African countries, studies on
school violence in all its dimensions are rare. Available literature on this
subject appears to be more of discussion papers than research-based infor-
mation. For example, a paper by Mogano (1993) analysed some of the dy-
namics that shape the character and intensity of violent behaviour in black
schools, particularly after February 1990. Teachers play a significant role
in the management and administration of schools. Therefore, it is impor-
tant to understand their views on the subject matter. The aim of this study is
to explore and assess the school teachers’ perceived prevalence and deter-
minants of violent behaviour in schools within Vhembe District and their
perceived strategies for dealing with the problem.
RESEARCH METHODS
Study Design
The study used a quantitative cross-sectional design. The design was used
because the study seeks to measure the size of school violence in a district,
including its determinants and preventive measures.
Setting
Vhembe is one of the 6 districts of Limpopo province of South Africa. It
is the northernmost district of the country and is located in a rural
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

308
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
setting. The seat of Vhembe is Thohoyandou and the majority of its
1,199,856 people speak Venda. The other major languages being spo-
ken in the district are Tsonga, Northern Sotho and Afrikaans. The dis-
trict is made up of four local municipalities: Thulamela, Makhado,
Mutale and Musina.
Sample and Sampling Method
The Education Department of Vhembe District was approached to obtain
information about the number and distribution of schools in the district.
The information obtained showed that the district is divided into 27 cir-
cuits, with each circuit supervising varying number of secondary schools.
Of the 27 circuits, eight were said to be inaccessible by car due to bad ter-
rain of the road and they were thus removed from the list. Since the re-
searchers were not able to cover all the schools in the remaining 19
circuits, a two-stage probability sampling technique was used to select 10
schools. In the first stage, the 19 circuits were divided into two according
to their setting, whether semi-rural or rural. Of the 19 circuits, the six that
were based in rapidly developing towns/locations were categorised as
‘semi-rural’, while the remaining 13 were categorised as ‘rural’. In order
to ensure proportional representation of the schools, four circuits were
selected by balloting from the six in the semi-rural category, while six
circuits were selected by balloting from the 13 remaining ones (that is,
the rural category). In the next stage, the list of all the schools in each of
the 10 selected circuits was compiled and from each circuit, one school
was selected by balloting.
The Instrument
Due to the fact that the researchers could not identify an existing tool on
this topic, the questionnaire for the survey was developed by the re-
searchers based on information gathered from literature review on the
variables of interest to the study. The tool, which comprises both struc-
tured and semi-structured questions as well as Likert-scale items, had
five sections: demography, variables on the prevalence of interpersonal
violence in the schools, perceived determinants/causes of interpersonal
violence in schools, respondents’ personal experience regarding violent
behaviour in their schools, and perceived preventive measures. A
pre-test was carried out in order to assess the appropriateness of the
tool.
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 309
Data Collection and Analysis
Considering the fact that the respondents were all teachers, the question-
naire was self-completed. In order to ensure that there was no exchange of
ideas, the respondents were expected to complete the questionnaire and re-
turn it immediately. Towards this end, after permission was granted by the
school authorities, the teachers were approached by the investigators to fix
a date for data collection. On the appointed date, except in few instances
when the respondents asked for more time to complete the questionnaires,
all the copies were collected back immediately.
Analysis of the questionnaire was done using the Statistical Package for
Social Sciences (SPSS). The database was used to obtain the frequency
distribution of the variables and to carry out descriptive analysis.
Ethical Issues
In order to obtain ethical clearance to carry out the study, the proposal— to-
gether with a completed ethical clearance form—was submitted to the Direc-
torate of Research and Innovation of the University of Venda and an ethical
clearance certificate was obtained. Following this, the Vhembe District Coun-
cil issued a letter of permission, which was taken to each of the Circuits that
oversee the activities of the 10 randomly selected schools. With the approval
of the circuit authorities, the principals of the selected schools were ap-
proached to seek approval. Consent was, thereafter, obtained from the teachers
and only those who agreed to participate were recruited into the study.
RESULTS
Demography
In all, there were 136 respondents (76 males and 60 females). One hundred
and nineteen (80.2%) respondents were between the age of 35 and 54
years. Of the 41 respondents who were between the age group 45–54 years,
27 (65.9%) were males, while eight (72.7%) of those who were 55 years
and above were also males. One hundred and thirty-two (97.1%) were
South Africans. One hundred and thirty-five (91.7%) had spent more than
two years in their respective schools. The gender distribution shows that of
the 29 respondents who had spent between five and nine years in their
schools, 18 (63%) were females. Forty (66.7%) of those who had spent
more than nine years in the schools were males. Of the 136 respondents, 80
(58.8%) were working in schools situated in semi-rural communities; and
35 (62.5%) of those working in rural settings were males.
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

310
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
Perceived Frequency of Occurrence of Violent Behaviours
among their Students

Tables 1 and 2 respectively show the distribution of the respondents ac-
cording to their perceived frequency of occurrence of certain behaviours
often characterised as being violent. Due to some missing data in this sec-
tion of the questionnaire, the ‘n’ varied slightly from one variable to the
other. With regards to physical fighting, 49.3% of the male teachers and
42.4% of the females thought that it often happened between two or more
male students compared to 20.3% of the males and 32.2% of the females
who felt that it often happened between two or more female students. Only
16% of the males and 22% of the females thought that physical fighting
often happens between a male and a female student.
The distribution, according to the frequency of bullying as a behaviour
pattern, shows that 57.3% of male teachers and 57.6 % of their female
counterparts felt that often, a male student could be seen bullying another
male student. Conversely, only 28.4% of the male respondents and 31 % of
the females felt that often, a female student could be observed to be bully-
ing another female student. The result shows that 33.3% and 47.4% of the
male and female respondents, respectively, thought that often, a male stu-
dent could be seen bullying a female student as compared to 13.5% of the
males and 22% females who thought that female students could often be
seen bullying a male student. The results with regard to the use of danger-
ous weapons by the students are shown on Table 2. It is however worthy of
note that 33.3% of the male and 20.3% of the female respondents said that
seldomly, a student could be observed using a knife or sharp object in the
school premises. The use of guns in schools was considered to be a rare oc-
currence or that it never happened (96% of the males and 93.2% of the fe-
male respondents).
Three variables—assault, swearing and rape—were examined in
Table 3. With regard to assault, 33.8% of the male and 31.7% of the fe-
male respondents felt that in few occasions (that is, seldomly), one could
witness a situation whereby a student intentionally inflicted serious in-
jury on another student through physical force. Furthermore, of the study
group, 31% of the males and 40.7% of the females perceived that
seldomly a student could be observed either assaulting or threatening to
assault a teacher. The distribution with regard to swearing shows that of
all the variables examined in the section (that is, a male student either
swearing/cursing at another male or female student; or a female student
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 311
Often
42.4%
32.2%
22.0%
5.1%
57.6%
47.4%
31.0%
22.0%
8.5%
0.0%
and
Seldom
42.4%
37.3%
45.8%
33.9%
23.7%
29.8%
46.6%
33.9%
20.3%
6.8%
Bullying
Females
Never
15.3%
30.5%
32.2%
61.0%
18.6%
22.8%
22.4%
44.1%
71.2%
93.2%
Fighting,
N
59
59
59
59
59
57
58
59
59
59
Physical
of

Gender
Often
49.3%
20.3%
16.0%
4.1%
57.3%
33.3%
28.4%
13.5%
8.0%
1.3%
by
Occurrence
of

1
Seldom
41.3%
52.7%
58.7%
21.6%
34.7%
54.7%
48.6%
39.2%
33.3%
2.7%
Weapons
Males
TABLE
Frequency
ever
N

9.3%
27.0%
25.3%
74.3%
8.0%
12.0%
23.0%
47.3%
58.7%
96.0%
Dangerous
f
o

regarding
N
4
5
75
74
75
7
75
7
74
74
75
75
Use
the
t
e
n
d
s
Respondents
s
t
u
of
student
a
l
e
member
ale
m
student
f
e
m
student
e
r
student
t
h
o
fighting
students
male
ale
female
object
students
a
n
another
a
a
g
Distribution
ale
fem
community
i
n
ing
ing
ing
during
m
female
a
l
l
y
and
u
Weapons
b
gun
ore
ore
and
bully
bully
t
bully
knife/sharp
a
m
m
e
n
r
r
ale
d
o
o
m
Percentage
Fighting
2
2
a
students
s
t
u
using
using
student
student
student
a
l
e
Dangerous
ale
ale
of
m
m
f
e
m
f
emale
s
tudent
s
tudent
Variables
Physical
Between
Between
Between
Between
Bullying
A
A
A
A
Use
A
A
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

312
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
Often
15.0%
10.2%
40.0%
45.0%
46.7%
30.5%
3.3%
Rape
Seldom
31.7%
40.7%
43.3%
36.7%
38.3%
37.3%
5.0%
and
Females
Never
53.3%
49.2%
16.7%
18.3%
15.0%
32.2%
91.7%
Swearing
N
60
60
60
60
60
59
60
Assault,
of

Often
6.8%
8.5%
48.0%
48.0%
44.6%
40.0%
0.0%
Gender
Occurrence
by
2
the
Seldom
33.8%
1.0%
38.7%
38.7%
44.6%
44.0%
9.5%
ding
Males
Students
TABLE
ever
regar
N
59.5%
60.6%
13.3%
13.3%
10.8%
16.0%
90.5%
their
among
N
74
71
75
75
74
75
74
Respondents
the
a
of
ale
female
m
student
student
assault
ale
m
terribly
to
female
another
a
another
a
Distribution
student
students
threatening
by
fellow
or
a
rape
swearing/cursing
swearing/cursing
Percentage
swearing/cursing
swearing/cursing
beating
assaulting
student
student
student
student
attempted
ale
or
ale
ale
s
tudent
s
tudent
earing
m
m
f
emale
f
em
Variables
Assault
A
A
teacher
Sw
A
student
A
A
student
A
Rape
Rape
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 313
either swearing/cursing a male or female student), the range ‘for often’ as
a response category varied from 40–48% for the male respondents and
30.5–46.7% for the female respondents. About 90.5% males and 91.7%
of the females felt that rape never happened in their schools.
Respondents’ Personal Experience with Regards to Students’
Violent Behaviour

Table 3 shows the percentage distribution of the teachers with regard to the
questions asking them to state whether or not they had personal experience
of their students being physically assaulted, bullied or threatened with a
dangerous weapon within the last 12 months prior to data collection.
About 92% of the male teachers and 95% of their female counterparts
said they had never been physically attacked/assaulted by a male student.
With regard to a female student ever attacking them, 95.9% and 95% of the
males and females respectively said it had never happened. With regard to
bullying, 31.1% of the male respondents and 15% of the females said that
they had been bullied, harassed or cursed more than once within the past 12
months by a male student. However, a mean percentage of 84.6 of the total
study group stated that they had never been bullied/harassed/cursed by a
female student. On whether or not the teachers had ever been threatened
with a dangerous weapon, Table 4 shows that whether one was considering
a male or a female student, between 91.9 and 100% of the respondents said
it had never occurred.
Table 4 covers two variables: sexual assault and psychosocial related expe-
riences. As shown in the table, all the female respondents said they had never
been sexually assaulted in any form by either a male or a female student.
Over 95% of the male respondents also stated that they had never experi-
enced any form of sexual assault from any student. Some questions were
asked to examine whether the teachers had previously exhibited certain be-
haviour characteristics due to their psychosocial state as a result of their neg-
ative experience based on what they witnessed either being done or said by
their students. When asked whether the teachers had ever resulted to flog-
ging a student after being provoked, 34.3% of the male teachers and 17% of
the females said that this had happened to them more than once. With regard
to the question on whether or not they had, at any time, felt like quitting the
school due to the students’ observed misconduct, 31.1% of the males and
18.7% of the females said they had experienced this type of feeling more
than once. About 95% of the males and 97% of the females said they were
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

314
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
than
Times
.
7
.
7
1
1
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0%
More
Four
.
7
.
0
to
1
0
1.7
0.0
1.7
Thrice
0.0%
(
n=60)

Regard
.
7
.
3
Females
1
3
1.7
Once/
Twice
13.3
13.3
0.0%
with
.
0
.
0
5
5
Never
9
9
85.0
86.7
96.7
100.0
Experience
Months
than
their
12
Times
.
0
.
0
0
0
6.8
4.1
to
0.0%
0.0%
last
More
Four
the
.
4
.
7
1
2
2.7
1.4
1.4
1.4
3
ccording
a

Thrice
within
(
n=76)

TABLE
Gender
Males
.
8
.
4
6
1
6.8
Once/
Twice
21.6
12.2
0.0%
by
Behaviour
.
9
.
9
1
5
Teachers
Violent
Never
9
9
68.9
82.4
91.9
98.6
the
t
of
e
n
d
Students’
student
student
s
t
u
student
student
ale
ale
student
a
l
e
m
ale
ale
a
fem
Object
a
ale
m
a
f
e
m
by
m
f
em
a
Distribution
by
a
a
by
y
b
by
by
n
o
eapon
e
a
p
w
w
Weapon/Sharp
a
a
Percentage
a
i
t
h
attacked/assaulted
with
attacked/assaulted
ith
w
w
e
d
Assault
sically
sically
r
e
a
t
e
n
sical
phy
phy
bullied/harassed/cursed
bullied/harassed/cursed
threatened
t
h
a
s
a
s
a
s
a
s
a
s
Variables
Phy
W
W
Bullying
W
W
Threatened
Was
W
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 315
than
Times
0.0
0.0
1.7
3.4
0.0
5.1
More
Four
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.7
0.0
1.7
to
Thrice
(
n=60)

Regard
Females
0.0
0.0
3.4
Once/
Twice
15.3
13.6
15.3
with
months
Never
100.0
100.0
83.1
81.4
96.6
78.0
12
Experience
last
than
Times
their
1.4
1.4
5.5
2.7
1.4
5.4
the
to
More
in
Four
-
1.4
5.5
1.4
1.4
2.7
4
Thrice
According
Variables
(
n=76)

TABLE
Males
1.4
1.4
23.3
27.0
2.7
25.7
Gender
Once/
Twice
by
Psychosocial
and
Never
97.7
95.9
65.8
68.9
94.6
66.2
Teachers
of

Assault
ale
student
of
ale
fem
a
students’
Sexual
m
a
by
of
because
distribution
by
s
students’
of
tom
because
p
raped
harassed
m
or
or
sy
Variables
students
because
Percentage
school
the
assaulted
assaulted
flogged
alcohol
depressive
and
quitting
misconduct
Assault
sexually
s
exually
like
a
s
Variables
Sexual
Was
W
student
Psychosocial-related
Provoked
Felt
misconduct
Smoked/had
misconduct
Experienced
students’
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

316
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
never tempted either to smoke or drink alcohol due to the students’ bad con-
duct. On being asked if the respondents had ever experienced depressive
symptoms as a response to their students’ observed misconduct, 33.8%
males (n=76) mentioned that this had happened to them more than once as
compared to 22.1% of their female (n=60) counterparts. Details of the results
can be found in Table. 4
Respondents’ Perceived Causes of Violence in their Schools
Using a semi-structured question, respondents were asked to list six rea-
sons as to why they thought students engaged in violence or physical fight-
ing in school. The responses were clustered under three categories: factors
associated directly with the students; factors associated with the fam-
ily/community environment; and those associated with the school (that is,
the teachers/the government). Considering that the responses were cumu-
lative, the ‘n’ for each of the three categories was calculated separately to
prepare the bar charts as shown in Figure 1. Figure 1a shows that the major
cause of violence, which can be directly linked to students’ behaviour is
FIGURE 1
Distribution of the Respondents According to their Perceived Causes of
Violence in their Schools with Specific Reference to Issues related to the
Students, Family/Community and the School/Government
Figure 1a
Factors Associated with the Students (n=262)
30
25
20
e
g
t
a

15
Percen
10
5
0
ect
ursing
Theft
isresp
gsterism
Gan
Substance Abuse
Peer Influence
Love Affairs
Arrogance/DSeeking Recognition
Bullying/C
Factors
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 317
Figure 1b
Factors Associated with the Family/Community (n=125)
40
35
30
e 25
g
t
a

20
Percen 15
10
5
0
Family
Lack of Parental
Poverty
Poor Cultural
Disintegration
Guidance
Background
Factors
Figure 1c
Factors Associated with the School/Government (n=79)
50
40
e
g
30
t
a

20
Percen
10
0
s
s
s
e
s
/
e
d
g
d
u
a
l
i
n
io
n
d
ly
ar
c
hool
a
bl
-
a
g
u
S
ng
er
l
ar
G
elig
v
s
u
eatio
R
i
n
i
r
s
/
T
di
O
nt
atten
ities
t
g
ecr
e
f
o
r
eg
r
ity
o
n
c
tiv
R
acilities
l
i
n
Cha
f
f
t
ude
s
s
e
s
ecu
A
o
F
o
e
r
c
r
ow
S
S
l
ectin
ities
er
f
i
s
c
i
p
e
v
clas
o
e
g
D
a
g
O
N
c
tiv
Lack
of
A
Teach
hort
Lack
S
a
c
k
L
Factors
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

318
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
substance abuse (28%), followed by love affairs, arrogance, peer influ-
ence, bullying/cursing, seeking recognition and theft. The distribution of
recognition and theft. The distribution of those factors related to the stu-
dents’ family background shows the following in descending order: family
disintegration, lack of parental guidance, poverty and poor cultural back-
ground (Figure 1b). As shown in Figure 1c, several factors were linked to
the school and the four most prominent were lack of discipline, overcrowd-
ing which is characterised by shortage of chairs and desks, activities of
over-aged students, and the issue of teachers not attending classes regu-
larly.
Respondents’ Perceived Preventive Measures for School
Violence

A semi-structured questionnaire was also used to seek the opinion of the
respondents concerning the measures that could be taken to prevent school
violence. The teachers were asked to list six measures that should be taken
to prevent school violence. The responses were clustered under three cate-
gories: the students/family/community, the teachers, and the government.
Figure 2a shows that the measures directly focusing on the students, their
family or community include:
FIGURE 2
Respondents’ Perceived Preventive Measures for School Violence
Figure 2a
Measures to Support Students or Build their
Capacity to Deal with Conflicts in School (n=188)
35
30
25
e
g
20
t
a

15
Percen
10
5
0
g
s
on
e
ve
t
s
e
t
h
ity
nt
bus
r
e
n
n
de
e
llin
hop
A
Invol
Pa
ve
r
ovi
Teach
t
ude
S
rks
mmu
P
o
r
ug
o
Invol
C
Couns
W
D
Factors
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 319
involving parents in finding solution to school violence, empowering the
students with skills to deal with anger or frustration, involving the commu-
nity people in addressing school violence, providing counselling services
for the students, and conducting workshops on drug abuse. Suggested mea-
sures that focus on the teachers include: establishing or strengthening Par-
ents’-Teachers Associations, enforcing school regulations, encouraging
participation in sports and recreation, and teachers’ conducting themselves
well (Figure 2b). Several measures suggested by the respondents concern
the government or policy makers and the most prominent ones were pun-
ishing offenders, erecting security gates and hiring security guards, involv-
ing the police, reviewing the policy on student’s discipline, promoting
religious activities in schools, stop giving admission to over-age children,
and providing enough furniture for students’ use (Figure 2c).
Figure 2b
Measusres that Concern Teachers (n=75)
40
35
30
e 25
g
t
a

20
Percen 15
10
5
0
/
n
d
n
our
h
he
e
ate
e
r
s
lis
n
a
n
ood
vi
As
ngt
a
t
i
ons
tiv
eatio
G
ha
tab
forc
o
PT
n
gul
Lear
port
ecr
Be
Es
t
re
M
S
E
S
Re
R
Factors
DISCUSSION
In this study, as shown in Table 1, physical fighting is more likely to hap-
pen between two or more male students than between a male and a female
or a female and another female student. The same pattern was observed for
bullying. However, the result shows that it was not uncommon to see a
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

320
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
Figure 2c
Measures that Concern Government/Policy Issues (n=169)
25
20
e
g
15
t
a

10
Percen
5
0
re
d
s
rs
us
e
e
lice
o
t
u
an
ool
i
o
lin
P
l
c
h
nde
e
r
-
a
g
e
urni
a
tes
S
ffe
e
l
i
g
ities
i
s
cip
v
t
h
F
G
onne
e
O
R
d
O
e
e
c
tiv
I
n
g
r
e
n
lv
e
rs
s
h
ot
o
acilities
r
ity
P
A
n
ild
v
ni
nough
F
on-fre
u
o
h
I
n
E
d
ecu
P
r
om
mittin
C
S
e
a
p
P
licy
d
de
an
W
o
A
P
p
r
ovi
t
o
P
r
ug/
S
D
Factors
male student bullying either a male or a female student. Studies (Pickett
and others, 2005; Rudatsikira and others, 2007) have found that male stu-
dents are more likely to engage in physical fight than females. Mahalik,
Burns and Syzdek (2007) observed that traditional masculine gender
socialisation and social norms encourage men to engage in behaviours that
put their health at risk. In a study that examined the nature and prevalence
of bullying/victimisation by peers and teachers (Delfabbro and others,
2006), it was consistently found that boys were more likely to be bullied
than girls. Crick, Bigbee and Howes (1996) found that boys were also sig-
nificantly more likely to be perpetrators of bullying, as well as engage in a
wider range of bullying behaviour, extending from direct physical aggres-
sion, to name-calling and threats. Furthermore, by using hierarchical linear
modelling, at the school level, Kaplan, Gheen and Midgley (2002) ob-
served that being male and having lower achievement was related to re-
ports of disruptive behaviour.
Research has shown that both physical fighting and bullying have sev-
eral negative consequences. For example, in the study by Rudatsikira and
others (2007), it was shown that male students—who were fond of engag-
ing in physical fighting—were associated with cigarette smoking, alcohol
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 321
and illicit drug use. Delfabbro and others (2006) also posited that irrespec-
tive of the type of bullying involved, bullying has many undesirable conse-
quences for individuals. For example, children who are bullied tend to
have poorer esteem (Boulton and Smith, 1994), tend to be more depressed
or anxious and to score higher on measures of suicide ideation (O’Sullivan
and Fitzgerald, 1998).
As shown in Table 1, about one-third of the male respondents and
one-fifth of the females claimed that in few occasions, students could be
found using dangerous weapons in the school and serious physical assault
also seldom happened. Swearing or cursing was said to be common among
both the male and female students. However, the use of a gun within the
school premises and the occurrence of rape were said to be very rare. The
implication of these findings is that whether rarely or seldom, the fact that
these violent behaviours happen at all in the schools serves as a predictor or
determinant of the likelihood that a crisis might happen at any time in the
affected schools. This might explain the reasons for what the City Press
(August 30, 2009) described as ‘litany of horror’. Following the murder in
cold blood of a female principal of a school in Western Cape, South Africa,
in August 2009, the newspaper wrote that the murder of the principal high-
lighted the violence that has become endemic in South African schools.
However, the passage below which was taken from the same newspaper
under the title ‘Litany of Horror’ shows that it is an understatement to refer
to the situation as being endemic; it is actually an epidemic state. This is
because as people say, one life lost is one life too many, not to talk of scores
of valuable lives.
The principal’s murder comes almost a year after a learner in a high school
went on a rampage with a sword and killed a fellow student by slashing his
throat. In the month prior to this, there were five reported incidents of violence
in schools. Since then, at least five students have died on school grounds due to
students’ violent behaviour. No fewer than 15 stabbings with knives or scissors
occurred in schools within the past year, resulting in three murder cases, four
attempted murder cases, three cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily
harm. Six incidents on the list of the reported cases involved guns.
Vally and others (2002) noted that as far back as 1999, while the world
was riveted by the media coverage of the horrific massacre of 13 high
school students in the USA in the same year, the litany of violent acts in
South African schools during that year alone far surpassed in number the
tragedy in Colorado.
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

322
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
The results showed that only a few of the teachers had ever been physi-
cally attacked, sexually assaulted or threatened with a dangerous weapon
by students in the past. However, about one-third of the male respondents
and one-sixth of the females said they had been bullied, harassed or cursed
by male students at least once within the past one year. Furthermore, a
good proportion of the respondents, both male and female, said there were
occasions when they had to beat some students because of misconduct and
that at one time or the other, they had experienced feelings of depression as
a result of students’ misconduct. In a study on primary school teachers,
Kokkinos (2007) showed that both personality and work-related stressors
were associated with burnout dimensions.
In a study on the mental health challenges of educators concerning the
experience of violence in secondary schools in an informal settlement in
South Africa, Poggenpoel and Myburgh (2006) found that educators expe-
rienced disrespect through learners being physically aggressive to each
other, and learners not treating educators with respect. They found that be-
cause the teachers felt disrespected, some of them lost their temper and
beat the learners or made degrading remarks about their physical appear-
ance.
Only a few of the respondents said they had resulted to smoking or
drinking due to the negative impact of the students’ serious misconduct.
However, with regard to the question on whether or not the respondents
had at any time felt like quitting the school due to the students’ observed
misconduct, many of them (31.1% of the males and 18.7% of the females)
said they had experienced this type of feeling more than once within the
past one year. Galand and others (2007), in a study on school violence and
professional disengagement, concluded that negative emotional impact of
some forms of school violence could be an important factor in a teacher’s
intention to leave. They also found that apart from age, which is weakly
linked to professional disengagement, other demographic variables like
gender and teaching experience were not associated. However, the study
found that school support was important for both teachers’ emotional
well-being and professional disengagement.
As mentioned in the study background, several causes and risk factors
are associated with interpersonal violence among students and these in-
clude access to weapon, cyber and television abuse, influence of the school
environment, community environment and family environment (Talking
Points, 2007). In line with this view, in this study, the respondents’
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 323
perceived causes of school violence were categorised into three areas: stu-
dents, family background, and the school respectively. The factors linked
to the students directly included drug abuse, love affairs, arrogance, peer
influence, bullying/cursing, seeking recognition and theft. Those linked to
the students’ family background included family disintegration, lack of pa-
rental guidance, poverty and poor cultural background. Lack of discipline,
overcrowding, activities of over-aged students and the issue of teachers not
attending classes regularly were the factors associated with schools.
As shown above, theoretically, the ecological model (Dahlberg and
Krug, 2002) is applicable to this study. According to this model, risk fac-
tors for violence are conditions that increase the possibility of becoming a
victim or perpetrator of violence. Dahlberg and Krug (2002) explain that
no single factor explains why a person or group is at high risk or low risk of
violence; rather violence is an outcome of a complex interaction among
many factors. The authors have captured the relationship in a model that
classifies risk factors for violence by four levels:
individual (biological and personal history factors that influence how
individuals behave),
relationship (with family members, friends, intimate partners, peers),
community (neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces), and
societal (broad factors that reduce inhibitions against violence).
Alcohol or substance abuse problems, association with friends who en-
gage in violent or delinquent behaviour, poor parental practices, low
socioeconomic status of households, poverty, weak policies in schools,
proximity to drug trade, sociocultural norms that support violence, avail-
ability of means (such as firearms), and ownership of guns were all part of
the risk factors identified in the ecological model (Dahlberg and Krug,
2002).
In a Namibian study (Rudatsikira and others, 2007), the major risk fac-
tors identified were male gender, smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs,
bullying, victimisation and lack of parental supervision. The multivariate
analysis carried out in the study showed that males were more likely to
have been in a physical fight than females [OR = 1.7, 95% CI (1.44, 2.05)];
smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs and bullying victimisation were
positively associated with fighting [OR= 1.91, 95% CI (1.49, 2.45 ); OR =
1.48, 95% CI (1.21, 1.81); OR = 1.55, 95% CI (1.22, 1.81) ; and OR = 3.12,
95% CI (2.62, 3.72), respectively]. According to Vally (1998), the high
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

324
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
level of violence in South African schools reflects a complicated combina-
tion of past history and recent stresses—on individuals and community
levels—in a society marked by deep inequities and massive uncertainty
and change within school operations. Vally (1998) further observed that
despite the end of the apartheid, race and ethnic tensions remain at the cen-
tre of much of the violence in the country.
In December 2009, a social commentator observed during a television
programme that in South Africa, school children are often cautioned either
by their parents or significant others to behave in a conformist pattern, but
only for those children to witness the bizarre or aggressive behaviour (such
as street fighting and substance abuse) being demonstrated openly on the
street by the same people that are supposed to mentor/parent them. This
makes it difficult for school children to perceive violence as something
strange or unacceptable by the society. Recently, the principal of a private
secondary school in Nigeria commented that the failure of parents to in-
struct their wards on the ways of African culture has been identified as the
major cause of moral decadence amongst school children (Nzeakor, 2009).
In this study, by categorising the preventive measures into three, the re-
searchers concur with the view that school violence is a complex problem
arising from a web of influences, such as family dynamics, school climate,
community and wider culture. According to the US Surgeon General
(2007), the key to preventing a great deal of violence in schools is under-
standing where and when it occurs, determining what causes it, and scien-
tifically documenting which strategies for prevention and intervention are
truly effective. In an undated document, the Safe Schools and Communi-
ties Coalition, a non-governmental organisation, listed the characteristics
of effective school-based violence prevention programmes as follows.
This can serve as a guide for the government in addressing the problem in
South Africa:
A strong commitment to reaching all students and staff with the
message that violence, harassment and intolerance are unacceptable
in the school environment.
Involving all students, staff, parents, and interested community
members in learning about violence and how to prevent it.
Eliminating barriers to communication among groups of students.
Involving students in violence prevention initiatives as critical and
valued partners.
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 325
Collaborating closely and effectively with community, media, and
policing agencies.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The result of this study shows that there are several determinants and risk
factors which often lead to students’ violent behaviour in schools in
Vhembe district and that the teachers recognise the violent atmosphere in
their schools. As shown by the results, the causes of violent behaviour in
the schools included in the study are multi-faceted and, therefore, the strat-
egies to address the problem must also operate at a variety of levels. Plans
should be developed in collaboration with students, teachers, administra-
tors, parents, health professionals, law enforcements officers, business and
community leaders, and other key community groups. Since the root
causes of violence are complex, strategies to address this must be
multi-faceted and comprehensive. Prevention strategies should incorpo-
rate knowledge from a variety of disciplines, such as education, social sci-
ence, public health and administration.
It is being recommended that some of the best practices in developed
countries, such as the USA can be adopted. These include the Students
against Violence Everywhere programme (SAVE) , Conflict Resolution
and Peer Mediation programme, Youth Art programme, Peer and Adult
Mentoring programme, Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, the use
of Open Circle curriculum, the Peacemakers programme, and the Positive
Adolescent Choices programme.
Specifically, judging from the result of this study, school violence in the
study area is both a social problem and a public health issue. Therefore, as a
matter of priority, resources should be mobilised to address all the issues
identified as the precursors of violence by the teachers, such as drug abuse,
thuggery, love affairs, overcrowding, lack of counselling services, pov-
erty, bad upbringing, issues of some teachers not attending classes regu-
larly, bullying, admission of over-aged children, policies that promote
indiscipline in schools, lack of security facilities, and access to dangerous
weapons/drugs. Failure to act decisively on this matter at this point in time
might be interpreted as a systemic failure due to what Mogano (1993) re-
ferred as ‘organic crisis’, which refers to a situation where the dominant
hegemony is disintegrating and the masses tied to the dominant and tradi-
tional ideologies have broken down. Simply put, ‘organic crisis’ is basi-
cally a crisis of authority (Mogano, 1993). A situation whereby students
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

326
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
indulge in alcohol and drug abuse freely in schools, where students carry
knives or other dangerous weapons to school, where students fight to death
over a girl or boy friend, where students fight over common facilities such
as chairs and desks, where married men and women are found in the same
class with children, does not augur well for a society; and something urgent
and drastic needs to be done. In one of the schools where data was col-
lected, one teacher told the investigators that in their school, there are stu-
dents who are married couples, more than one-third of the students are
parents, and that each year, at least 10 students get pregnant. This teacher
lamented that those ‘parent students’ have no respect for them and the
school authority at all because they see themselves first as parents and as
individuals with advanced age who cannot be ‘controlled by these young
teachers’. This is a serious aberration and the issue should be addressed
quickly and decisively. Secondary schools in all societies are meant for
children and not ‘parents or big adults’.
REFERENCES
Boulton, M. and
: Bullying/Victims Problems Among Middle School Children:
Smith P.K.
Stability, Self-perceived Competence and Peer Acceptance,
1994
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 315–329.
Crick, N., Bigbee, M.A. : Gender Differences in Children’s Normative Beliefs about
and Howes, C.
Aggression: How do I Hurt Thee? Let me count the ways, Child
1996
Development, 67, 1003–1014.
Dahlberg, L.L. and
: Violence: A Global Public Health Problem. In E.G. Krug, L.L.
Krug. E.G.
Dahlberg, J.A. Mercy, A.B. Zwi, and R. Lozano (Eds.), World
2002
Report on Violence and Health, Geneva: World Health
Organization, 1–21.
Delfabbro, P.,
: Peer and Teacher Bullying/Victimization of South Australian
Winefield, T.,
Secondary School Students: Prevalence and Psychological
Trainor, S., Dollard, M.,
Profiles, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 71–90.
Anderson, S., Metzer, J.
and Hammarstrom, A.
2006
Earls, F., Cairns, R.B.
: The Control of Violence and Promotion of Non-Violence. In
and Mercy J.A.
S.G. Millstein, A.C. Petersen and E.O. Nightingale (Eds.),
1993
Promoting the Health of Adolescents: New Directions for the
21st Century
, New York: Oxford University Press.
Felson, R.N. and
: Aggression and Violence: Social Inactionist Perspectives,
Tedeschi, J.T.
Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
1993
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

Perceived Prevalence, Determinants and Preventive Strategies… 327
Galand, B., Lecocq, C. : School Violence and Teacher Professional Disengagement,
and Philippot, P.
British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 465–477.
2007
US Department of
: Indicators of School Crime and Safety, Washington, D.C.:
Education
Institute of Education Sciences, National Centre for Education
2004
Statistics.
Kaplan, A., Gheen, M. : Classroom Goal Structure and Student Disruptive Behaviour,
and Midgley, C.
British Journal of Educational Psychology, 72, 191–211.
2002
Kokkinos, C.M.
: Job Stressors, Personality and Burnout in Primary School
2007
Teachers, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77,
229–243.
Krug, E., Dahlberg, L., : World Report on Violence and Health, Geneva: World Health
Mercy, J., Zwi, A. and
Organization.
Lozano, R. (Eds.)
2002
Lai-Kah L., Chen, P.C.Y. : Violence-related Behaviours among Malaysian Adolescents: A
and Kick-Kit:
Cross-sectional Survey among Students in Negeri, Sembilan,
2007
Annals of Academy of Medicine Singapore, 36, 169–174.
Lorion, R.P.
: Exposure to Urban Violence: Contamination of the School
1998
Environment. In D.S. Elliot, B.A. Hamburg and K.R. Williams
(Eds.), Violence in American Schools, New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Mahalik, J.R.,
: Masculinity and Perceived Health Behaviours as Predictors of
Burns, S.M. and
Men’s Health Behaviours, Social Science Medicine, 64,
Syzdek, M.
2201–2209.
2007
Masuku, S.
: Prevention is Better than Cure: Addressing Violent Crime in
2002
South Africa, South African Crime Quarterly, 2.
Mercy, J.A., Butchart, A., : Youth Violence. In E. Krug, L.L. Dahlberg, J.A. Mercy, A.B.
Farrington, D and
Zwi and R. Lozano (Eds.), World Report on Violence and
Cerda, M.
Health, Geneva: World Health Organisation, 23–56.
2002
Mogano, R.
: The Resurgence of Pupil Power: Explaining Violence in African
1993
Schools, Seminar No. 1, Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of
Violence and Reconciliation.
Nicolaides, S., Toda, Y. : Knowledge and Attitude about School Bullying in Trainee
and Smith, P.K.
Teachers, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 72,
2002
105–118.
Nzeakor, J.
: Parents Blamed for Moral Decadence, as Apata High School
2009
Celebrates Culture, Daily Sun, December 21.
O’Sullivan, M. and
: Suicidal Ideation and Acts of Self-harm Among Dublin School
Fitzgerald, M.
Children, Journal of Adolescence, 21, 427–433.
1998
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010

328
H.A. Akinsola and N.J. Ramakuela
Pickett, W., Craig, W.,
: HBSC Violence and Injuries Writing Group: Cross-sectional
Harel, Y., Cunningham, J., Study of Fighting and Weapon Carrying as Determinants of
Simpson, K., Molcho, M., Adolescent Injury, Pediatrics, 116, 855–863.
Mazur, J., Dostaler, S.,
Overpeck, M.D. and
Currie, C.E.
2005
Poggenpoel, M. and
: Mental Health Challenges of Educators Concerning the
Myburgh, C.
Experience of Violence in the Secondary School Setting,
2006
International Journal on Violence and School, 2, 70–90.
Rigby, K.
: Bullying in Australian Schools and What to do About it, London:
1997
Jessica Kingsley.
Roopnarain, U.
: A Gendered Perspective on Violence in South Africa,
1999
Feminista, 2 (11).
Rudatsikira, E. Siziya, S., : Prevalence and Associated Factors of Physical Fighting among
Kazembe, L.N. and
School-going Adolescents in Namibia, Annals of General
Muula, A.
Psychiatry, 6, 18.
2007
Talking Points
: Causes of School Violence, Service Learning Network, 13, 1.
2007
US Surgeon General
: Youth Violence: Prevention and Intervention—A Report of the
2007
Surgeon General, Washington, DC.
Vally, S., Dolombisa, Y. : Violence in South African Schools, Current Issues in Comparative
and Porteus, K.
Education, 2(1).
2002
IJSW, 71(3), 303–328, July 2010