Collaborating to prevent violence and GBV in South African schools – Blog
Local Civil Society Organisations are partnering with the Department of Basic Education - through provincial education departments - to jointly implement a school-based violence and gender-based violence intervention which has the potential of creating a network of young people driving change within their communities.
The National Inclusive and Safer Schools Partnership NISSP) is a joint national partnership that aims to promote the whole-of-school approach to contribute towards the prevention of violence and gender-based violence in South African schools.
The programme brings together district officials, Civil Society Organisations, educators, and learners to receive unique capacities that enable them to coordinate, co-resource and jointly implement school-based violence prevention programmes. The initial phase of the programme is focused on four provinces: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and North West.
It is supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC) through the Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) Programme.
Evidence shows that school-based, primary prevention interventions can effectively reduce violence in schools by promoting positive behaviours and change in norms and values of the school community, which can influence the surrounding community.
Such learner-led interventions, which prioritise peer-to-peer education, have been shown to work by encouraging and influencing positive behaviour change and the whole-of-school approach encourages the support of the wider school community.
The NISSP supports the expansion of the success of the Masifunde Changemaker Network, which is part of the National Inclusive and Safer Schools Toolbox of school-based approaches and programmes for the prevention of violence and gender-based violence in South Africa (currently being developed). The upscaling of the intervention is led by Masifunde Learner Development and Agape Youth Movement.
The Network will empower young people in 100 schools - spread across 20 districts - with the support of 20 civil society organisations, teachers and school managers. These 100 learners will then go on to recruit 500 changemakers who will be able to systematically spark and sustain community-driven primary prevention activities in their schools.
To initiate the programme, the first cohort of district officials and CSO representatives from four districts in the Eastern Cape gathered in Gqeberha for a NISSP capacity building workshop from 6-10 February 2023. The week-long workshop will be offered at the Masifunde Academy of Change in Gqeberha, for other cohorts of district partners throughout the year.
The workshop capacitates participants with the skills and knowledge best practices to develop District Plans for the prevention of violence and gender-based violence in schools.
The workshop also guides participants to link their activities to relevant policies on the prevention of violence and GBV, modern methods of facilitation, approaches to child protection, approaches to learner activation and peer-to-peer learning activities. Importantly, the workshops are also designed to allows partners to strengthen areas of collaboration in their districts. Once trained, the CSOs from all four provinces will work with district officials to target 100 schools, with the goal of reaching 500 learners.
Opportunities for Collaboration
The success of the project will depend on the collaboration between Community Support Organisation (CSO) representatives, district officials and the principals and learners from the participating schools. A common theme that emerged from the feedback sessions during the initial workshop was the need for stakeholders to work together.
District officials will serve as the link between CSOs and schools, and the buy in of school principals will ensure that they are able to engage with learners and establish the network that forms the backbone of the NISSP.
Masonwabe Prusent is the school safety coordinator for the Chris Hani District, covering Queenstown, Lady Frere and the Inxuba Yethemba District Municipality. Drugs and substance abuse are prevalent in the region, and this has spilt over to schools.
“Drug lords are present in the community, and they have recruited young people to sell drugs at school. This can also be linked to the incidence of gangsterism and violence which disrupts schools. We also have a serious challenge with bullying in our schools, and many learners end up leaving school because of this,” he explains.
“I am excited for this programme to be rolled out in our district. These CSOs are focused on some of these issues, and they are close to the communities where our schools are located, so they may better understand the issues and how to get young people to respond to them. As the district we will do what we can to support them.”
Khuthala Luvalo is the School Safety Coordinator for the OR Tambo Coastal District, a vast area covering more than 600 schools. She runs school safety awareness campaigns and ensures that schools are familiar with the National School Safety Framework.
“We have a huge problem with safety in our schools. Dagga is a massive issue in our area, which is known as a cultivation region, so many learners smoke it and sell it. Bullying is also a huge issue, particularly around initiation, which leads to lots of fighting and stabbings, as well as dropouts,” she says.
“We also have a high incidence of sexual assault, rapes and gender-based violence.”
She is confident that the NISSP will assist in addressing these issues, as the programme targets young people who are most at risk and ‘allows them to be the change they want to see.’
“This way, the change will start with them. Hopefully, a peer-led programme such as this will encourage others to seek assistance and speak out. Young people interact best with their peers so if they are driving the process, they know what the challenges are and how they want to address them,” she explains.
“There are 667 schools in my district so these partnerships will help with some of the department’s work. We now know the CSOs, so we immediately have a support network. When they submit their reports, we will have a good picture of what is happening in schools so we can assist where possible.”
However, she is aware that implementing the programme will not be easy.
“The district is vast and the reception at schools might be difficult as some school managers may be resistant to the process. Our role as district officials is to sensitize them before we even start this project. We must conscientise them and get their buy in,” she adds.
For Abongile Muze, the format of the programme aligns with her work in schools in the Gompo town area of the Buffalo City Municipality. She heads the Teens Against Drug Abuse (TADA) programme at the Lisebanzi Foundation, which was established in 2016 to tackle the scourge of substance abuse in the area.
The organisation runs awareness campaigns and offers outpatient treatment, counselling, and referrals to rehabilitation for those affected by substance abuse.
TADA is already active in schools, raising awareness about substance abuse as well as mental health and anxiety and issues around HIV/Aids, and for Muze participating in the NISSP is a natural extension of this work.
“Through this programme and with the support of the district office, we will have better access to schools and learners. The peer-led nature of the intervention is also big positive,” she says.
“Through our work we have seen that there are sections of learners who are eager to get involved and change their circumstances. But I am worried about those who are resistant and how we can get them on board. Schools might be resistant as well, but I think district officials can open those doors that were previously closed to us.”
HOW IT WORKS
- CSO representatives and district officials gather for a five-day capacity building workshop on a toolkit of learner-led programmes and modern methods of facilitation, learner activation and peer to-peer-learning.
- The workshop is followed by bi-weekly virtual support sessions between Masifunde Learner Development and the CSOs.
- CSOs along with district officials will identify five schools in each district where they can recruit Grade 9 Changemakers and implement the Changemaker Network.
- CSOs meet with the five selected and trained changemakers from each of the five schools to assist in planning the learner led interventions
- CSOs provide support to learners in implementing their campaigns.
- CSOs participate in evaluation of the programmes and provide a report to the district officials.