have been sexually assaulted at schools — where over 10% say its okay to force yourself on somebody.
This week, child violence experts said a “crisis of values” created by bad parenting, poverty, poor role models and materialism had placed about a quarter of the nation’s children at risk of leading anti-social lives.
Their warnings of a “ticking time bomb” follow a series of new child surveys, which researchers described as “shocking”.
In one survey of seven “at risk” schools around Johannesburg, conducted by Unisa criminologist Professor Marelize Schoeman, more than 25% of pupils said it was either sometimes or always “okay for a man to hit his girlfriend or wife if she doesn’t listen to him”. Another 28% said it was sometimes or always acceptable to use violence to “get what you want”, while 30% said it was okay “for the poor to steal from the rich”.
Two national surveys by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention — to be published in June this year — posed similar questions to thousands of children at random. Head researcher Patrick Burton confirmed that:
* More than a quarter of young people said it was acceptable to steal from wealthy people;
* More than 10% said it was acceptable for a man to force himself on a woman in certain circumstances, such as if she wore a short skirt or if the man had paid for the date;
* Over 450000 had been robbed of their possessions under threat of violence in a single year; and
* Extrapolating from an earlier survey, Burton said about 106000 primary school children and 116000 high school children in South Africa had been victims of rape, sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact at school.
psychologist at the University of Cape Town, said that, in addition to the apartheid legacy of poverty and violence, “rampant materialism”, a lack of moral leadership and widespread alcohol and drug abuse were eroding values.
“What’s driving kids to think it’s okay to steal from those who are better off is that many don’t have a cell-phone with a camera or designer shoes. They have this sense that they really need things to be a person in a very fundamental way,” said Ward.
“On top of that, there’s the constant absence of a primary caregiver. Children I’ve interviewed tell me: ‘After school we either lock ourselves in our houses, while our mums work, or we go on the street, where we face the choice of either joining a gang or becoming a victim of one.’ ”
Dr Charlene Swartz, youth researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council, said almost all children agreed that it was wrong to hurt people. “Some kids tell me its okay to steal from the wealthy because they’ve got insurance.
“Suburban kids tell me they just don’t have the time to do wrong things — their schedules are full of activities and there’s so much surveillance around them. Clearly, we have to keep all our children occupied,” she said.
South African Police Service figures from 2008 reveal that between 11000 and 14000 children under the age of 18 are arrested every month.