S. Mthiyane

University of KwaZulu-Natal (SOUTH AFRICA)
There is a growing and widespread problem of violence in South African schools which in turn contributes to high levels of truancy and drop-out rates. School violence goes hand in glove with discipline problems and as such, any discussion dealing with it has to incorporate learner discipline. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, South African schools are the most dangerous in the world. Surveys conducted on school violence found that only 23% of South African learners felt safe at school.

Working within a qualitative approach and utilising the emancipatory paradigm, this paper is derived from a PhD study and reports on the study that explored the role of school governing bodies in addressing violence in post-conflict South African schools. Conceptualised within the school governance and leadership framework, this study aimed to: elicit perceptions and experiences of principals, teachers, students and parent governors about school violence; whether school governing bodies (SGBs) are the most appropriate tool for reducing violence in schools; and to explore how school violence influences access to quality education for all.

Ethical issues were observed before data was generated through interviews, observations and documents review. To ensure trustworthiness of findings, multiple data generation instruments were utilised. Content analysis is employed to analyse the data. Findings suggest that SGBs face a cocktail of challenges in maintaining discipline and safety among learners; some learners view their schools as not doing enough to address violence against them and thus resort to taking the law into their hands to ensure that justice is done; some schools do not follow ‘due process’ when charging the learners for misconduct; the majority of participants expressed doubts about the appropriateness of SGBs as a structure to deal with school violence and discipline.