Windhoek – In a booklet he compiled and released to the media on young offenders and policing school violence recently, a professional member of the Namibian police, Matongo Lunyandile, points to the influences that correlate with school violence.
Among these influences are individual ones. Schools with high-achieving learners, a drug-free environment with strong discipline, and involved parents have fewer behavioural problems. Some learners have emotional and psychological problems while others experience isolation. With little parental attention and feelings of loneliness they may incline to substance abuse and consequently instances of violence and crime.
Substance abuse (drugs and liquor) reduces:
- The ability of knowing (cognitive ability);
- The skill of processing information; and,
- The ability to process and react to verbal (spoken words) and non-verbal stimuli (something that causes a reaction in a living thing). As a result, a simple argument amongst learners or learners and teachers may become violent.
The “newborn baby” theory
- Would you ever have imagined a newborn baby that starts to speak, walk and even start consuming solid food immediately after birth? We are yet to see that happening.
- A newborn baby feeds on milk and with time it will slowly start with solid food, learn how to sit, crawl, stand up, walk and finally speak. Just like a newborn baby slowly develops until fully grown, so does school violence because youth offenders tend to scheme over time and spill “their secrets” before a major incident of violence.
At times they inform others of their intention to take revenge and even their plans for violence or even show their plans in drawings and verbal accounts. It’s therefore crucial for educators and the police to stay in touch with learners, taking advantage of the drawings and verbal accounts to be able to identify and refer children in need.
- Though human minds may be unpredictable, there are possible warning signs of violent behaviour which when presented in combination, might assist to identify and refer children in need.
- Warning signs include (but are not limited to):
- Poor performance;
- Threats of violence;
- Low school interest;
- Uncontrolled anger;
- Discipline problems;
- Affiliation with gangs;
- Drugs and alcohol use;
- Being a victim of violence;
- Feelings of being picked on;
- Past history of anger and violence;
- Patterns of impulsive and chronic bullying;
- Expression of violence in writing and drawings;
- Possession of weapons (Hess & Wrobleski, 2006:235);
- Parental involvement: The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (USA) released findings that violent acts of delinquency are less likely to be committed by youths who have adult supervision after school. Parents should know the whereabouts of their children and not detach academically or developmentally and not defend a child’s bad behavior;
- The school resource officer: These officials engage in three main activities: law enforcement, teaching and mentoring. Efforts may start with law enforcement, but evolves into a balanced approach of coaching and mentoring. These efforts may lead to increased perception of safety, improved school safety and order and enhancement of the police image (Miller & Hess,2008:328-338);
- School teams: These teams are in partnership with the local police department, which assigns a full-time youth services official to each school in the precinct (area). They monitor learners’ behaviour and perform searches. They also make a point of supporting youths “working hard to stay on track”;
- Teens on target: This is a peer education programme; the programme trains high-risk students to advocate violence prevention by educating and mentoring their peers and younger children on drugs and family conflict. They also undertake field trips to hospital emergency rooms to give their peers a firsthand look at the impact of violence on victims.