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Learners’ self-reports of exposure to violence in South African schools: A gendered reflection

Matshidiso Joyce Taole


The pervasive worldwide phenomenon of gender-based violence in schools poses a threat to education as a vehicle of economic development and economic freedom. Gender violence in and around schools is a global problem with serious implications for the educational attainment, health and wellbeing of both girls and boys. This paper explores the gendered nature of violence in selected schools in six provinces in South Africa. A qualitative study following a communitycentred, capacity-building approach used focus group interviews to collect data from a purposive sample of learners aged between 13 and 17 years who were perpetrators or victims of violence. The aim was to give voice to learners about their experiences of violence in schools. Findings indicated a high incidence of gender-based violence in schools. Boys mainly drew on genderbiased discourses to orchestrate demeaning gendered comments, sexualised gestures, sexual harassment and bullying. Teachers’ assault of learners in the form of corporal punishment was also deeply implicated in both girls’ and boys’ reports of gender-based violence. Recommendations are made for gender-based awareness campaigns, which involve learners, parents and teachers, and the setting up of school-based structures for learner peer support as critical strategies for combating gender-based violence in schools.

Keywords: Femininities, masculinities, power, management, gender, school violence