“I Wanted To Dig Deeper Into Violence In Durban Township Schools”

Dr Zithobile Mkhize-Ngidi has been an educator for 24 years and having noticed a growing trend of violence in schools at uMlazi and KwaMakhutha townships, she decided to pursue a PhD on ‘Reducing School Violence’. On Friday, Dr Mkhize-Ngidi graduated at the Durban University of Technology, she shared her inspiration to embark on this three and a half years journey with the Daily Vox.

My study was inspired by my experiences of violence in the past years, especially violence that is related to drug and alcohol abuse. As an educator and a deputy principal, I’ve seen this increase in violence first-hand; and I wanted to dig deeper into the causes of this violence, and the steps that could be taken to reduce it.

I also wanted to pay careful attention to the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in the education system (educators, parents, community members, the Department of Education and learners themselves) in reducing this pandemic.

The study used the ‘cure violence model’, and stated that violence is like a contagious disease, and therefore needs to be attended to as such. Educators and learners need to identify the infected stakeholders that need to be assisted. As observed in similar investigations, the implementation of this model has a notable positive effect in the school environment.

It is assumed that by reducing the levels of violence in the school, this also has an impact in reducing the physical and psychological effects, educational damage and societal breakdown that come with it. The beauty of this model is in its ability to be used in any setting, across many dividing lines.

I have witnessed gang-related violence in kwaMakhutha, where scholars from different areas fight to kill each other but the reason is never known. When one enquires about it, you find that there’s an old grudge that is fueling all these fights. Some of these students carry dangerous weapons to school and when you ask them why they feel the need to, they will tell you we are living in a dangerous world.

One incident that I can’t get over is of a learner that was stabbed by another when I was still a teacher in uMlazi. The learner gasped for help until his last breath and it was terrifying. Another recent one is that of our neighbouring school in kwaMakhutha where two pupils died in a very horrific manner after being stabbed by other pupils. This made me realise that our future leaders are dying, and something has to be done about this.

It’s a sad case because some of the parents are not even aware of the things their children get up to. In my study, I found that most of the parents neglect their children due to their daily jobs. In most cases, you even find that educators are often blamed for violence at schools but everyone has a role to play. There are cases where educators are in the wrong but parents are also wrong by not paying enough attention to their kids.

Now that I’ve completed my PhD, I hope to write as many articles that will influence the education department to try alternatives in dealing with the scourge of violence at schools by using different models. I also hope to influence the curriculum, where children could be taught about anger management and conflict resolution skills at an early stage such as in grade R; because sometimes trying to manage things at a high school level doesn’t always work since it’s already late and things are out of hand.

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