With each news report, South Africa is reminded of its continuous battle against gender-based violence (GBV). Incidents of violence against women and children, typically at the hands of men, have become a regular occurrence in our society.
Last year, the South African Medical Research Council revealed that 10% of all reported rape cases in the country occur at tertiary learning institutions. This terrifying statistic has women left fearful, specifically in the Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector.
The Department of Higher Education, in conjunction with Higher Health, regularly monitors the levels of GBV across the country. Unfortunately, despite the implementation of various policies and programmes, GBV levels remain concerning, especially on college and university grounds.
A study conducted by Higher Health found that 62% of students feel unsafe on campus and feel as if they are high-risk to GBV. It is not just female students who are at risk, as staff members have too been victims of GBV. 60% of service staff and 71% of academic staff report that they feel unsafe on campuses of higher learning.
Higher Health Interventions
While various policies and programmes have been implemented by Higher Health and the Department, it has been revealed that these interventions continue to fail. CEO of Higher Health, Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia, reveals what the two organisations are doing about this. The following interventions are in place or are soon to be implemented.
- Collaborative partnerships with South African Police Services (SAPS) have been established
- Survivor-centric support and justice for the victims
- The establishment of a co-curriculum in schools, together with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), addressing gender, toxic masculinity, patriarchy, gender equality and other gender-based violence related topics
- Equipping Life Orientation teachers with the knowledge and skills to appropriately teach this co-curriculum
- Encouraging survivors to break the silence and report GBV crimes
- The development of protocols on campus safety and security
- Improving campus safety including improved lighting, protection, visibility and escorting students to safe places
- Monitoring the levels of drugs and alcohol on campus and the outsiders coming visiting residences
- Implementing similar protocols on private accommodation
- Improving the National Registry to ensure that those who have been accused or charged with GBV are prevented from joining other institutions
This epidemic is the result of generations of violence against women, with multiple possible causes. In order to fight this pandemic, Ahliwalia believes that each possible cause needs to be tackled one-by-one and education and empowerment needs to take place on multiple levels.
If you have to tackle a disease, a challenge, an epidemic or a pandemic, we have to tackle the root causes, not just the problem.
This is why measures need to be implemented at a family, community, school and post-school level.
This is a process that will ultimately take a long time, however some progress has been made with these recent interventions.