While addressing the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) during the learn without fear rally at Orlando Stadium, President Zuma admonished the youths to shun violence and take note that the school environment must unavailable for violence‚ gangsters and pupils who carry weapons.
According to a report in The Times in May 2015, apart from Jamaica, South African pupils are more exposed to violence at schools than children in any other country.
Zuma expressed his concern about the level of violence perpetrated in the schools and also the “small but significant number of learners who see the need to go to school carrying weapons”. This attitude has resulted to the maiming of pupils in the school environment, with some stabbed and a lot others shot.
Vice-president of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union Veronica Hofmeester said an estimated 22% of pupils have been threatened with violence‚ assaulted‚ robbed or sexually assaulted while some others end up dead.
According to the study carried out by the National School Violence 1n 2013, more than 90% of violence in schools are perpetrated by pupils. The study came up wit the findings that 12.2% of pupils had been threatened with violence by someone at school‚ 6.3% had been assaulted‚ 4.7% had been sexually assaulted or raped‚ 4.5% had been robbed at school and 60.2% of teachers have been robbed‚ the study found.
Zuma told the rally that government is going to use a multipronged approach to deal with the violence at schools. He also told them to help the government in fighting this monster by saying no to alcohol and hard drugs.
“We believe is also psychological‚ mostly perpetrated by children who themselves are victims coming from families with a deep rooted culture of violence.”
“The role that Cosas must play in this regard cannot be overemphasized. No leaner must drink or abuse alcohol or use drugs even when they are not at school.”
The president commended Cosas for its initiative of the Mantombazane Convention or the Emma Sathekge Detachment that is aimed at dealing with the problems girls face at school and to assist them to build their leadership qualities.
“This type of initiative is necessary if we are to successfully conscientise … society to deal decisively‚ among other things‚ with the evil tendency by some of our male teachers to prey on and harass vulnerable young girls”.
He implored Cosas to use their position as leaders at schools to help the girls to build up confidence in themselves that will enable them to refuse and report any adult that makes sexual advances at them.
Another monster that is rearing its ugly head in the schools is the issue of teenage pregnancy. Zuma encouraged the pupils to abstain from early indulgence in sexual activity to avoid early pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
“Government launched prevention and sexual health in schools programmes recently which learners must make use of‚” he said. “But we still emphasise prevention and delay.”
During the course of his speech, Zuma called up late Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education is the great engine of personal development.”
The president also used the opportunity urge pupils who are over the age of 18 to register to qualify for voting their desired leader in the upcoming municipal elections.