Adult basic education as an antidote for violence against women and children

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Violence against women and children is a deep-rooted social problem. Research indicates that more than 50% of women in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are subjected to violence on a daily basis, while books like those of Patty Mallone, mother of the rock star Justin Bieber, confirm that this violence occurs on a global scale. In South Africa, the situation is no different, with violence against women being referred to as an “unacknowledged gender war” and violence against children is evident from research on school violence and on child victims of rape and prostitution. Violence against women and children (hereafter referred to as “violence”) is also part of literature as poems and novels on the theme, and of our language, for example, in the Tswana proverb “Mosadi kgogo o thlabelwa baeng,” which indicates that “if a man has a male visitor, to demonstrate his welcome he must give him his wife”.

Against this background, this article, which is theoretically underpinned by an integrated ecological framework (Heise 1998), studies the use of adult basic education (ABE) as a way of combating violence.

In the first part, violence and the reasons for violence are divided into the following four groups:

Personal factors. These are factors bound to an individual’s action or personality and include self-image, substance abuse and pornography. Pornography, for example, has become more prevalent and has a harmful influence on the victim both through the initial recording and through the dissemination of the images.

Structural factors. These are economic, social, political, religious, cultural and legal factors which prevent people from satisfying their basic needs and include social change, socio-economic factors (for example, poverty and unemployment), the role of the state, the AIDS-pandemic, gangs and the media’s portrayal of men. The research indicates that some men feel emasculated if they are poor or unemployed and use violence to confirm their masculinity.

Gender roles. These are also important, as is evident from the role that patriarchy and religion still play in perpetuating violence. The effect of these allocated gender roles is that violence is normalised and aggression against women and children are seen as acceptable. With regard to culture and cultural practices there is a close connection between violence and cultural context. Victims are still subjected to ritual raping, virginity tests, forced marriages, initiation practices and the use of body parts.

Use and misuse of power. The way in which power is used and misused plays an important role in the perpetuation of violence, whether the perpetrator uses power consciously or unconsciously. In some cases, the victims themselves are complicit in this cycle of violence because of their acceptance of the unequal power structures. The persistence of violence is also supported by obstacles in the quest to curb violence, such as the culture of silence, the role of language and the roles of perpetrators, victims, society and false charges.

In the second part of this article the focus shifts to adult basic education in South Africa, to establish whether it can be utilised to address the violence experienced. The discussion centres on the definitions of both adult education and adult basic education (ABE), key aspects of these definitions, the content of the ABE syllabi and the Kha Ri Gude programme. The latter has already reached more than three million adults and provides illiterate adults with basic literacy skills. There are, however, a number of concerns with regard to ABE in South Africa which could diminish its attraction. These include governmental bureaucracy and officials’ lack of vision, financial constraints, a shortage of equipment and classes, cultural practices and taboos and the training (or rather the lack thereof) of ABE facilitators. However, despite these concerns, the authors conclude that ABE is still a viable method for combating violence.

The last section of the article deals with an empirical research project in which local practitioners were asked about their views on violence and ABE in South Africa. Eleven participants from diverse age cohorts, backgrounds and professions participated in the qualitative research project. The participants all rejected the use of violence and more than one described the current spate of violence in South Africa as “abhorrent”. The participants also referred to the causes of violence as well as the role of power and the misuse thereof as is evident from the direct quotations in the article that were included to enable readers to “hear the voices of participants”, which is an important feature of qualitative studies. Turning to possible solutions to this epidemic of violence, the participants agreed that education is an important vehicle, although some also referred to more severe punishment and a change in the social culture. Participants further felt that teachers must be better trained and that boys need mentors to assist them to create a society where everyone is respected.

The participants also regarded ABE as important, although they shared the concerns referred to in the literature study. One of the participants specifically referred to the paucity of ABE teacher training and suggested that ABE teachers should be able to specialise in this field. The participants indicated various ways in which anti-violence education could be implemented. These include gender education, focusing on the existing cultural and familial values, a multi-cultural approach, and teaching adults about their roles and influence on their society. Regarding the methods to be used in ABE, the participants indicated the use of modern technology (“cybertrones and gadgets”), role play, small-group discussions and workshops where both the perpetrators and victims are present, as well as peer education and dialogue. However, one of the participants warned that ABE must not be seen as a “panacea for a complex social issue”, but rather as only one of the elements of a larger campaign.

When the empirical study is compared with the literature study, the degree of congruency in the views on violence and ABE is remarkable. It is also alarming that participants describe violence as “out of hand” and “increasing daily”. These descriptions confirm that current projects such as the 16 Days of activism against gender violence are not successful. Nearly all the participants referred to patriarchy in one way or another, stereotyped gender roles and male dominance as reasons for violence, with one of the participants commenting that men suffered from a “psychological illness”. Turning to obstacles in the battle against violence, the participants referred to the “culture of silence”, with one participant indicating that the violence was still better than his previous circumstances, and another that women will not report violence because they are scared that the breadwinner will be imprisoned. Both the literature study and the empirical study indicate that ABE can be used as an antidote against violence, even if the concerns raised by both studies are taken into account.

The article concludes with recommendations made for the implementing of anti-violence education. These include the formal inclusion of anti-violence education in the syllabi of both ABE and universities, pilot projects on provincial and regional levels and the immediate implementation of anti-violence education in ABE centres. As the research indicates that a change in the society’s norms and values is necessary, it is recommended that religious and community institutions also be involved.

The authors finally indicate that although this research study is subject to a number of limitations, which include the size of the empirical study, it contributes to the ongoing campaign against violence against women and children. One participant asserted, “If South Africa does not break this or fix it [the violence], it will destroy our nation.”

Keywords: adult basic education (ABE); anti-violence education; causes of violence; children; ecological framework; Kha Ri Gude; power; qualitative research; violence; women

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Basiese onderwys vir volwassenes as teenvoeter vir geweld teen vroue en kinders

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