T. Abdulla, C. Smith

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
The aim of this study was to investigate teachers’ experience of violence directed at them by pupils in selected Johannesburg schools. Pupil violence directed at teachers is an escalating phenomenon in South African schools. This takes the form of physical, verbal and emotional violence. However, negligible research has been conducted in South Africa on this phenomenon, teachers’ experience of it in particular. Most research tends to focus on pupil violence directed at their peers.

An interpretive case study design was adopted to allow teachers to describe their experiences of pupil violence. Individual interviews were held with purposefully invited school management members and focus group interviews were held with purposefully selected teachers at each of three secondary schools selected for the study. Documents relating to incidents of violence were also analysed. Generic thematic qualitative data analysis procedures were used to analyse the data.

The findings revealed that teachers experience frequent incidents of a variety of forms of violence. A number feel increasingly unsafe and unprotected. Most ascribe the change in pupil discipline to the rising number of dysfunctional homes pupils grow up in, the abolition of corporal punishment and an absence of competent school leadership. Some teachers have left and others intend to leave the public school system, if not the teaching profession altogether. Teachers call for strong zero-tolerance-for-violence leadership, the availability of trauma counseling for teachers, tighter school security and a partnership, with school district support, with parents and surrounding communities.