School violence headache for all

Corporal punishment is at the centre of a violent society, a Windhoek-based clinical psychologist has warned.

13 March 2018 | Education

Denver Kisting -
Sanet Steenkamp, the permanent secretary in the ministry of education, arts and culture, expressed shock at recent incidences of violence at schools.

Steenkamp told The Zone: “I find it shocking and absolutely unacceptable. Now more than ever, we as a society need to realise that as community leaders, parents (and) educators we need to really actively be part of solutions. Parents need to look out for behavioural problems and act with authority and instil discipline.”

Doctor Shaun Whittaker, a local clinical psychologist, says he too is worried about what seems to be a surge in violence at schools. “It is absolutely worrying. (As it is,) Namibia is already such a violent society.”

He says one shouldn’t underestimate the impact of violence. “Violence disorganises people and institutions and one is particularly concerned about the impact of it on young people.”

Of utmost importance is to provide emotional support to affected youngsters, he says.

And, he adds, they need to be taught that violence is never the answer. “One cannot solve a problem in a violent manner.”

Life skills teachers are crucial in this fight, the mental health expert says. According to him, they are responsible for both one-on-one counselling as well as group sessions. Also, he adds, they need to be able to identify traumatised children and provide the individual attention which these children require.

Whittaker emphasises that corporal punishment is one of the main causes of violence in society. “The time has come for us to accept that and to stop it. Corporal punishment is at the heart of the trauma.”

Whittaker adds that bullies need to be dealt with very firmly. Amongst others, they need to be reprimanded after a first incident and ultimately suspended should other interim interventions, such as discussions with parents and guardians, not reap any rewards.

As far as sentiments about children acting out because they are bewitched are concerned, he says: “One has empathy that some people understand it that way, but as a therapist, my approach is different – one needs to determine the cause of the violence and address that.”

Meanwhile, reverend Wynand Fourie, a local youth pastor, says healthy relationships offer a good foundation amidst such crises. “Everyone disadvantaged and traumatised by these incidents would benefit from their healthy relationships – it’s a wonderful mechanism to brave stormy seas: spend quality time with family, friends, mentors, your spiritual leaders as well as other support frameworks which you have. Don’t try and walk this journey alone.”

He concurs with Whittaker that bullies harbour their own skeletons and need help themselves. “It’s no breaking news that ‘hurt people hurt people’.”

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