n Acta Criminologica : African Journal of Criminology & Victimology - Xenophobia : what do students think?

Special Edition 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


In 2008 South Africa experienced a series of attacks on foreigners which lead to the concept xenophobia becoming a household word. Since then, sporadic reports on xenophobic incidents from various regions of the country have been reported in the media. The question came about on how university students perceive xenophobia and led to a survey administered to compare the attitude towards and opinions on xenophobia of different groups of students. Three groups of students (law students, criminology students and foreign students) completed a questionnaire on issues ranging from the definition of xenophobia, reasons for xenophobia, perceived perpetrators of xenophobia, the consequences of xenophobic attacks for the victim and how to prevent xenophobia. The 207 respondents represented third year Criminology students who discussed the issue in their first year Criminology module, a group of mostly second year law students who were only enrolled for one module in Criminology, and a small group of foreign students, mostly from the SADEC countries, studying at the University. The attitudes and opinions of these groups were compared to determine if their academic background influenced their outlook. A few statistically significant differences were found regarding the reasons given for the xenophobic attacks, who the different groups perceive as the perpetrators of the attacks and the most devastating consequences of the xenophobic violence for the victims. For example, 69% of foreign students said that xenophobic attacks stem from the fact that foreigners are more willing to work and the South Africans are lazy. Only 37.8% of criminology students and 35% of the law students agreed with this opinion. More foreign students (69%) believe that the perpetrators of the violence are young people compared to the 44,1% of criminology students and the 35% of law students. All the groups were of the opinion that the physical and financial consequences were severe. The students also recommended various measures that could be implemented to reduce xenophobia.

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