The First Lady ,Monica Geingos, has spoken out against violence in all forms against children at home and in schools which she said can stunt the potential for personal development and achievement in their lives, and present heavy costs to society as a whole.
The First Lady of Namibia has pointed out that a situational analysis done by the National Planning Commission (2012) found that bullying and corporal punishment are very common in Namibian schools and that girls in school hostels are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence.
“The Global School based Student Health Survey (2013) indicates that more than 44.6% of learners were bullied (teased, insulted, threatened, hit, kicked or punched) at school.”
“Anecdotal evidence, based on recent events and #BeFree engagements with youth across the country indicate that these statistics may be higher as many scholars do not report bullying,” she said.
According to renowned violence researcher and guest speaker at the #BreakFree Anti- violence launch, Dr. Chandre Gould, the foundations for violence and criminality are laid anywhere between 10 to 20 years before the effects are felt by society.
“In other words, the way we, as a society, respond to children who witness and experience violence, neglect and abuse in 2018 will determine whether we will see the same or even higher levels of violence in 2028,” she said.
She said through the #BeFree flagship youth engagements, her office has also learnt that violence experienced by children in the context of the home and family can lead to lifelong consequences for their health and development.
Children often lose trust in other human beings, which is essential to the capacity for empathy and the development of future relationships, said the first lady.
“As the #BreakFree Anti-Violence campaign, we are of the view that violence is a learned behavior and it is inextricably linked to violence in homes and generally high levels of societal violence.”
“We have perused a number of actual cases and we observe an increase in the use of dangerous weapons and the increased presence of drugs and alcohol on school premises,” she said.
There have been links shown between the use of substances before engagement in planned violent acts, inmates in Correctional Facilities also report that substances are used before committing callous acts, as this allows for the lessening of any naturally occurring anxiety or apprehension.?
The mix of unresolved anger, intoxicating substances and lethal weapons thus presents a perfect storm for school violence to escalate into an increase in fatal incidences at schools and at social events frequented by young people.
“Mrs. Jimmy, a #BeFree volunteer and a Life Skills teacher at Ella Du Plessis High School noted that bullying was a frequent spark in violent incidences which escalate into stand- offs between opposing sides.”
“The Principal and numerous teachers from Ella Du Plessis highlight the lack of parental involvement which appears to be a factor with children who exhibit problematic behavior,” she said.
She added that another observation from the teachers was that boys who are being raised by single mothers appear to struggle with the lack of a father figure or male role model and tend not to adhere to rules set out by their mothers.
She said they are prone to stay out late, spend time with peers with problematic behaviour and do not actively seek guidance.
“The main lesson however is that violence appears to have become a way of communicating anger and frustration and is used as a weapon to humiliate and discipline,” said the first lady.
She said that young people often reflect the behavior they see modeled by adults and that her office would like to use this opportunity to call on fathers to play active, and meaningful roles in the lives of their children in order to reinforce pro-social behavior. ?
This also includes engaging in programs which equip young people with the knowledge of how to avoid or de-escalate conflict, as well as not to expose young people to substance abuse or social activities that make violence look funny or acceptable.
Another aspect is to teach the youth to exercise self-control, and seek help for self-destructive behavior and encourage the training of peer counsellors who understand how to counsel and direct their peers to seek assistance from responsible adults.