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EDUCATION

Limiting school children’s exposure to violence

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SCHOOL violence is any activity that can create a disturbance in an educational system. It is not just school shootings. It includes verbal and physical altercations, bullying through electronic means or social media, threats, weapon use, and even gang activities.

It can also be seen as a physical or verbal altercations on the way to school, on the way home from school, or at a school-sponsored event that can cause physical or psychological harm to pupils or students, school, or community.

  School violence has become a national and also international concern that warrants global collaboration in preventative efforts. Victimisation and exposure to violence is associated with multiple risk-taking behaviours and poor mental health outcomes: post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, depression, suicidal ideation, helplessness, anger, high-risk sexual behaviours, and substance abuse.

  Simply put, beyond physical well-being, there are many negative social, emotional, and psychological outcomes associated with violence among school age children; many of which have lasting effects. But then, what can schools and parents do to protect them from violence in the schools, given the fact that all pupils and students alike have the right to learn in a safe school environment.

  Speaking on the causes and remedy for violence in schools, Mrs Nwatoka Chukwujekwu said: “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. Violent behaviour 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 behaviour, could develop in people when they are exposed to poor parenting or disaccord amongst family members.

Also, in homes where parents and guardians display violent behaviour, 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 our society.

Children and teenagers often emulate their favourite television characters in action movies and this leads to exhibiting violent behaviour in schools. But the good news is that school violence is not without remedy.

  “First, 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 pupils and 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 overemphasised.

Students should be counselled 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.

  “Again, parents and guardians have a key role to play as they should ensure that the atmosphere at home, where the child or ward is nurtured is violent-free. Adults should bear in mind that children 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 pupils and students to act violently; also, proper monitoring of the association that children and 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 organisations should make concerted efforts to reach out to pupils and students and other youths 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”.

  Again, Mr Joseph Nwawulu, a primary school teacher, commenting on how teachers can also help to prevent violence in schools said, “teachers should not allow inappropriate talks in their classes. They should be able to come down hard on students who say prejudicial comments or use stereotypes when talking about people or groups, making it clear to them that inappropriate languages are not allowed inside or outside the classroom.

Teachers should empower children who are inclusive of their peers.  Teachers should also listen to “idle” chatters of their pupils or students. Whenever there is “downtime” in the classroom, and students are just chatting, teachers should try to listen in.

If by any means he or she hears something that puts up a red flag, he or she should jot it down, and afterwards bring it to his or her administrator’s attention.

  “Teachers should also discuss violence prevention with the pupils or students. School violence is in the news, so this is a great time to bring it up in class. Depending on the school’s policy, teachers can mention the warning signs and talk to students about what they should do if they know someone has a weapon or is planning violent acts.

They should also encourage children to talk appropriately about violence. They also should be open to student questions and conversations. Teachers should also try to make themselves available, letting their pupils and students know that they can talk with them about their concerns and fears about school violence.

Building trust with all students and keeping the lines of communication open is essential to violence prevention. Pupils and students should also be taught conflict resolution and anger management skills. As a teacher, if you have students disagreeing in your classroom, talk about ways that they can resolve their problems without resorting to violence. Use debate formats to shape productive classroom discussions.

Further, teach students ways to manage their anger through role-plays, simulations and other activities. Teachers in every discipline should take the opportunity to share opinions and literature that will help build empathy. Above all, teachers should get parents involved in whatever observation they make about their children.

Just as with students, keeping lines of communication open with parents is very important. The more teachers call parents and talk with them, the stronger the relationship. Build trust with parents so that if a concern arises, you can effectively deal with it together”.

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