..This perspective is from the U.S.A.; in Europe, violence in school and the concern about violence may not be at similar levels, but it is undoubtedly a topic of major concern (Smith, 2003, p. 1).
This article also makes the important point that school is intended as a developmental and educational environment and that violence in its various forms negatively effects and detracts from the goals of education.
Another general work that adds to the underlying body of knowledge on this topic is Stealing the Show? Crime and Its Impact in Post-Apartheid South Africa by Mark Shaw and Peter Gastrow (2001). Among others, this study makes a cogent assessment of the way that crime and violence is measured and reported in South Africa.
Most researchers assume that official crime statistics -- that is, those collected and released by the South African Police Service -- provide a poor indication of levels of crime in the country. This is because official statistics never seem to match the personal experiences of citizens (and their friends and neighbors), and because crime statistics are often, unsurprisingly, manipulated to serve political purposes (Shaw and Gastrow, 2001, p. 235).
The emphasis here is on "...personal experiences of citizens (and their friends and neighbors)" (Shaw & Gastrow, 2001, p. 235). This is an extremely important point that will be incorporated into the methodological strategy of this thesis. This useful study echoes the findings of many other reports and studies that stress the high level of general crime in the society. The implication in much of the literature is that this ethos of violence and crime influences children and adolescents. Shaw and Gastrow, (2001), also state that;
The country appears to have more serious levels of violent crime than states that have a comparable socioeconomic status, such as Brazil or Argentina. Thus, South Africa has, on the recorded statistics, the highest murder rate in the world -- the 1997 Interpol data show a figure of 121.67 murders and attempted murders per one hundred thousand citizens. Of this total, the proportion of attempted murders is 53% (Shaw & Gastrow, 2001, p. 235).
This study also makes the important point that official data and statistics are often unverifiable or out of step with the actual reality of the situation on the ground. There is also the possibly of political motivation in the reportage of violent crimes. This is an important aspect that also has a bearing on the methodological strategy envisaged in this thesis.
These views are supported and added to by general studies that provide a necessary background to the situation with regard to violence in the country. For example, the following view is indicative of the problematics of violence that tend to permeate the society and all its institutes, including schools.
The fact that so very many wrongdoers have not been prosecuted cultivates the impression of impunity even if the formal trappings of democracy may be firmly in place in contemporary South Africa. In this respect, it does not help to argue that broad-based, restorative or social justice can replace individual accountability for wrongdoing (Hendricks, 2003, p. 7).
The most recent report and studies on the South African situation with regard to the various facets of violence at schools will also be accessed for this thesis. These include research studies and data sources on the general trend towards crime and violence in the larger society and the way that this trend has infiltrated or influenced behavior patterns at schools in the country. For example, a report entitled 'Shoot 'em dead', police are told; it seems the gloves are off. South Africa's violent criminals have been warned by Susan Shabangu, the country's deputy security minister, that she wants the police to shoot them dead, provides insight into he overall situation with regard to rampant violence in South Africa.
Another article that explores this area is SAIRR Today: Violence in schools. This article refers to the exceptionally high rate of violence of at many South African schools and to recently published studies attesting to the exceptionally high levels of violence to which young South African experience,
Among the more formal studies that will be referred to is an important 2008 study entitled, Learning to be lost: youth crime in South Africa: discussion paper for the HSRC youth policy initiative by Eric Pelser (2008). This is a particularly enlightening piece of research that brings to the fore many important statistics and findings that will be referred to in this thesis. For example, the study finds that young people between the ages of 12 and 22 are victims of crime at twice the adult rate, with even higher rates for violent crime. (Pelser, 2008) an interesting fact is that of the pupils interviewed at South African schools, twenty percent indicated that they were victims of some form of violence.
The study also points out that, the classmates of the victims were identified as the primary perpetrators of school violence (94.4% for threats; 94.1% for assault; 55.4% for robbery and 29.5% for theft). However, educators were themselves identified as the perpetrators in 5.8% of the thefts, 5% of the threats and 4.6% of the reported robberies. More worrying, however, is that 50.9% of the primary school respondents reported that their teachers had assaulted them as did 14.9% of the secondary school respondents (Pelser, 2008).
One of the most disconcerting aspects is the psychological impact and long-term effects of the exposure to violence. The above mentioned study also notes that "South Africa's youth also experience significant violence in their own homes as victims on the one hand, and witnesses to this violence on the other" (Pelser, 2008). This aspect is also dealt with in School Violence and Adolescent Mental Health in South Africa: Implications for School Health Programs by Bility (1999). This study examines gang related violence in Cape Town, South Africa, and explores the perceptions of high-school adolescents and the implications for school health in South Africa. This study finds that, "Ties among government, school, parents, and community education and participation are urgently necessary to implement a school-based approach to adolescent health promotion" (Bility, 1999, p. 285).
Other related areas of concern in the literature include the issue of sexual violence and aggression at schools in the country. Studies such as South Africa: Sexual Violence Rampant in Schools. Harassment and Rape Hampering Girls' Education from the Human Rights Watch are useful in this regard. Other areas of the literature that are of concern are studies that focus on the way that violence at schools can lead to criminal and violent behavior patterns in later life. A useful exploration of these and other facets of violence in South African schools is an article by Salim Vally et al. from the University of the Witwatersrand, entitled, Violence in South African Schools. This study notes the pertinent fact that, "...although various policies have been unveiled and legislation enacted to hasten desegregation, the incidence of racial rancour in many school communities attests to the intractable and continuing violence in South African schools" (Vally, 1999).
3. Methods and techniques
3.1. Research paradigm
The main research paradigm that is envisaged for this study is a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. While quantitative methods have an important place in this research, the more qualitative approach provides access to views and perceptions about the causes and effects of the violence, which are more accessible given the relatively paucity of the studies in this field.
This methodological preference is based on a view that is prevalent in the literature. Vincent Pouliot (2007) in Subjectivism: Toward a Constructivist Methodology, summarizes the main methodological strategy in this research: "...constructivist inquiries need to develop not only objectified (or experience-distant) but also subjective (experience-near) knowledge about social and international life" (Pouliot, 2007. p. 359). This also refers to a common definition of qualitative research which is "...any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification" (Strauss and Corbin, 1990, p. 17).
While quantifiable research methods are often seen as the most relevant and acceptable research methods, many researchers in the social sciences have realized that strictly quantifiable research methodology is not always adequate to their field of research.
Another reason for a more qualitative methodological strategy is that there are a number of studies that place official statistics and measurements of crime and school violence in doubt. As noted, Shaw and Gastrow (2001) refer to the view that the statistics and reportage of violence are often suspect in the South African context. The authors emphasize that an understanding of "...personal experiences of citizens (and their friends and neighbors)," (Shaw & Gastrow, 2001, p. 235)
3.2. Research method
The research methods will include quantitative and qualitative assessments of the relevant data, reports and studies that are available on the subject. In terms of the qualitative methodology, case studies will be used to assess the causative factors and effects…