The World Health Organization defines violence as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either ratiesults in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprived".
From this definition, school violence could be described to be physical attacks between students or by students on school staff, which could occur on the way to or from school/school-sponsored events, on the school premises or at a school-sponsored event. School violence is a public health problem and may take the form of bullying, shooting, brawls and a host of other physical abuses. The consequences of school violence are grave, as extreme cases have led to the loss of human lives. Other effects of school violence include vandalism and loss of property – especially school facilities, moral decadence, poor human capital development, increase in crime rate, erosion of cultural values and a bad reputation for schools as well as societies.
As of April 24th 2015, A&E Television Networks reported on its history website that the worst high school shooting in U.S history was the Columbine High School Massacre of April 20 1999, which occurred at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. The perpetrators, reportedly two senior students, murdered a total of 12 students and one teacher; injuring 21 additional people, after which the pair then committed suicide. Proving that school violence is indeed a global threat, the National School Safety Centre records one of the worst cases of school violence to have occurred in Beslan, Russia, in 2004, with 350 people killed, half of which were children. In Cameroon as well, we have learned and witnessed instances where students exhibit violence to fellow students, teachers and adults in the society. Seeing that history has recorded many gruesome cases of school violence around the world, one can’t help but ask, “What are the causes of school violence?” and “Are there possible solutions to school violence?’’
I shall attempt to answer these questions in the subsequent paragraphs
- School violence is a multi-faceted social ill and may occur for diverse reasons, one of which is the intake of hard substances such as drugs and alcohol abuse. Students, school staff or members of society who are intoxicated tend to lose control of their inhibitions and often act in an irrational manner. Hence, the effect of drugs on the human body can serve as a catalyst for school violence.
- Another cause of school violence may be personality problems. Shyness, for instance, may cause a student to feel out of place amongst his peers, thereby influencing him to be rebellious or try to get noticed by any means. Such behavior may also result in bullying and gang fights. .
- Furthermore, school violence may arise due to the psychological deficiencies created by dysfunctional homes. Worry, hatred, inferiority complex, anger and other negative emotions which fuel violent behavior, could develop in people when they are exposed to poor parenting or discord amongst family members. Also, in homes where parents/guardians display violent behavior, children/wards usually adopt violence as a way of asserting authority.
- Another cause of school violence is violent media. The impact of violent television programs and video games is largely underestimated in society. Children/ teenagers often emulate their favorite television characters in action movies and this leads to learned violent behavior in schools.
- Also, the government in some parts of the world - especially First-World countries - permits weapons such as guns to be made more accessible in households. Teenagers are able to gain access to sharp objects and dangerous arms, which they take to school and use to intimidate their peers.
In addition to this, the legal system in many areas - especially third-world countries - is yet to develop specific laws that will help curb school violence and make it an offence punishable by the law. Having identified some major causes of school violence, it is imperative to proffer solutions to this social ill.
- Firstly, schools should set into action strong disciplinary measures which perpetrators of the act will face, if they fail to abide by the institution’s rules and regulations. There should also be up-to-date security measures in schools and school-sponsored events, to ensure that students are properly searched and stripped of any kind of weapon before entering the premises. The school buildings and school-sponsored events should also be properly guarded in order to quickly detect any possible threats of violence. The need to engage students in awareness campaigns cannot be overemphasized. Students should be counseled and enlightened on anger-management, conflict resolution, character development and a host of other topics that will help to deal with the psychological issues associated with school violence.
- Parents/Guardians have a key role to play as they should ensure that the atmosphere at home, where the child/ward is nurtured is violent-free. Adults should bear in mind that teenagers are impressionable and, as such, they tend to adopt their behavioral standards from what is obtainable in their households. Effective communication between parents and their children will help reduce some of the perceived pressures which cause students to act violently; also, proper monitoring of the association that children/wards keep is a means through which the problem of school violence can be solved. Parents may also seek professional advice regarding the type of video games and television programs that children should be exposed to.
In conclusion, the larger community such as non-governmental organizations should make concerted efforts to reach out to students and other youth in order to properly address issues of drug abuse, social anxieties and other forms of mental or affective disorders. The legal system in less-developed nations should also be reviewed in order to accommodate specific laws for school violence. The government should also update statistical data on school violence, in order to further enlighten the general public about the menace. Violence in schools is a social problem with an enormous ripple effect- one act of violence can trigger numerous negative outcomes- hence, the community is expected to work as a whole in order to curb this social ill.