n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Eastern Cape educators' perceptions of the causes and the scope of school violence

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Crime and violence have far-reaching consequences for education. These negatives may precipitate the collapse of a learning culture, and cause physical, emotional and psychological problems in both educators and learners. To establish a safe school environment, "a place where students can learn and teachers can teach in a warm and welcoming environment, free of intimidation and fear of violence", it is important to be informed of the nature and the scope of school violence, to be able to identify potential aggressors, and to become familiar with the most important causes of this type of violence. Against this background, an empirical investigation was conducted to determine a group of Eastern Cape educators' perceptions of school safety, and to record their experiences as victims of violent crime in school context. Moreover, an attempt was made to determine their perceptions of the causes of learner violence. The research instrument was a structured questionnaire.

The population of subjects consisted of educators, attached to schools located in the Eastern Cape. A sample of 250 educators was selected in terms of the principle of convenience. Of the 250 questionnaires that were handed out, 215 were suitable for processing.
From the investigation, it seems as if Eastern Cape schools are relatively safe. Some potential problem areas have been identified, namely the school grounds, empty classrooms, parking areas, and learner bathrooms. It seems that bullying, learner assault and robbery were the most general violent crimes committed against learners. Educators are, albeit to a lesser extent, the victims of robbers, (learner) bullies and learner assault. More than half the respondents held the view that violent acts at their respective schools had to be attributed to learners in general, and boys in particular. According to the respondents factors which often fall outside the control of the school, among others, poverty, unemployment, the disintegration of family life, the inability or unwillingness of the government to deal with violent criminals, and the availability of drugs and alcohol are seen as some of the most important causes of learner violence in Eastern Cape schools that are located in black townships and villages. To overcome learner violence and to establish a safe school environment therefore require the co-operation of leaders in education, the government, law enforcement agencies and community leaders.


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