Violence and Nonviolence: Costs, Effectiveness and Morality

Geoff Harris

 Geoff Harris is a Professor in the Peacebuilding Programme at Durban University of Technology. An economist by training, he has formerly held posts at the Universities of KwaZulu-Natal, New England (Australia), Lincoln (New Zealand), Papua New Guinea and La Trobe (Australia). His current research interests include the relationship between violence and economic inequality in sub-Saharan Africa and the lessons to be learned from South Africa’s 1999 ‘arms deal’. He edited “Achieving Security in sub-Saharan Africa” (Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies) in 2004.

It is widely believed that violence ‘works’ and nonviolence does not. This has huge implications for the way we bring up children, deal with criminal behavior and try to ensure national security.

This paper examines the evidence concerning this belief with specific reference to

  • Campaigns to bring about social change
  • The use of corporal punishment by parents in bringing up children
  • Retributive justice to deter criminal behavior
  • Armed conflict to bring about peace.

In each case, it will be shown, the evidence is very clear – nonviolent strategies and methods are more effective, less costly and more morally acceptable.

The Persistence of Violence and Implications for Change

Crispin Hemson

CrispinCrispin Hemson is Director of the International Centre of Nonviolence (ICON), based at Durban University of Technology (DUT).   He is Honorary Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and was formerly Director of the School of Education at the University of Natal.  Apart from his nonformal educational work in ICON, he is involved in curriculum development at DUT.  He is a researcher and writer on issues of violence, nonviolence and social justice.  He is also an active environmentalist.

This paper poses the question as to why, nearly 20 years after democratic elections, we struggle so much as we do with violence throughout the society and specifically within education.  It refers to the evidence that will be presented in papers at this conference as to the nature and extent of violence within education.

The argument is that there has been a failure to understand sufficiently the driving forces for violence within South African society, and an incorrect assumption that democracy would resolve the problem of violence.

The paper will consider how theory can assist in both understanding the high levels of violence and awakening our imagination for change.  In particular, an informed understanding of violence within education can become the basis for an appreciation of the forces for nonviolence that are present, and awareness as to how to strengthen these.   The implications are that we need to see education as a vital social space that either reproduces violence, or challenges it and enables healing.



Tackling Violence in Educational Environments Using Restorative Justice Approaches

 Jean Chrysostome Kiyala Kimbuku

Organization: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Violence in the educational environment is widespread. in the World Report on Violence against Children initiated by the United Nations Secretary-General, four major forms of violence were identified – physical and psychological punishment, bullying, sexual and gender-based violence and external violence (gangs, weapons and fighting). Violence on university campuses is mainly directed at female students in the form of sexual assault, date-rape and stalking.

Educational institutions have largely adopted either a punitive approach (sanctions and expulsions) or the referral of offenders to the criminal justice system which seem to have limited deterrent effects.

This paper looks into two alternative approaches:

  1. Educating the students and staff of educational institutions in nonviolent conflict resolution
  2. The use of restorative justice mechanisms as a way of building or re-building – also known as transforming – the relationships between victims and offenders

I will argue with evidence that restorative justice mechanisms have the potentials to curb the cycle of violence and make educational institutions a safe environment for all. One of the objectives or restorative justice is “reducing [repeat anti-social behaviour] by encouraging change in individual offenders and facilitating their reintegration into the community”.

The Effect of Affirmation Excercises on Teachers and Students Participating in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Cape Town

Stanford Jarvis

Stanford JarvisStanford Jarvis is currently the project leader for the Alternatives to Violence Project for the Quaker Peace Centre, in Mowbray, Cape Town.  Jarvis is a trained teacher who works with teachers and pupils in both high and primary schools, and with community leaders.

The Quaker Peace Centre in Cape Town runs the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) with teachers and students in schools on the Cape Flats in Cape Town.  The Cape Flats consist mostly of impoverished and marginalised communities which suffered oppression under the Apartheid regime.  AVP comprises participatory and experiential workshops with 20 hours of total contact time with participants.  One aspect of the workshops is affirmation exercises.  Evaluation is conducted at the end of each workshop and we find that participants value the affirmation exercises highly.  The paper will discuss possible reasons for affirmation exercises being so highly valued and the contribution of AVP to the healing of identities and improved self-worth in participants.

Engaging teachers in exploring school-based conflict, violence and injustice


Dr Vaughn John

Vaughn John, School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal

This paper reports on a practical and generative process of getting teachers to explore school-based conflict, violence and injustice.

I teach a course on Peace Education and Conflict Resolution to a group of masters students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Students complete a project on Mapping conflict, violence and injustice in their schools during the course of this study. All 14 students in the 2013 cohort are school teachers or part of the management structures in schools in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Using a multi-stage process the project requires these teachers to first produce a map of their school and to provide an account of sites and causes of conflict, violence and injustice in their school. They are then required to get groups of male and female pupils in their schools to separately draw such maps and to likewise provide accounts of sites and causes. A third stage of the project requires teachers to critically engage with the similarities and differences between teachers maps/accounts and pupil maps/accounts and to explore reasons for differing perspectives of the school environment. The final stage of the project requires the teacher to develop an intervention of some peace education or peace action in response to a key problem identified by their learners.

These projects provide telling accounts of the levels of conflict, violence and injustice in KZN schools and the challenges faced by teachers. They also reveal interesting diversity in perspectives on the school environment and in proposed interventions. Many of these teachers found this to be an “eye-opening” exercise and a source of reflection on their so-called blind-spots. The projects also serve as a catalyst to thinking about interventions. This paper will report on some of these observations and reflections and the types of learning generated by the projects.

Note: Applications for ethical clearance and consent to use the students’ project for this study have been submitted to UKZN

The Two-Fold Moral Purpose : Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth – A Baha’i Inspired Curriculum for Moral Development

Charmaine January

January2A comprehensive education which encompasses both the spiritual and material dimensions of reality serves as a catalyst for enduring change in society. In conceptualising the powerful, dynamic interplay between the individual and society in the change process, one of the Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi penned the following: “Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it.” It is within this framework that it is possible to conceive of an educational process that is transformative at two levels, the individual and the society. A Baha’i educational process entitled “Releasing the powers of junior youth” examines this concept which fundamentally seeks to re-orient and challenge common assumptions underlying approaches to this age group pertaining specifically to the capacity for ownership and mentorship. Global and national examples will be used to illustrate youth empowerment and community building processes which seek to actively overcome moral decay and instead instil a culture of service and upliftment. In assessing current approaches to stave off the endemic culture of school violence, it is evident that while practical measures are essential to safeguard learners, it is in itself limited in its effect to bring about the necessary environmental changes required. Optimal cognitive and affective functioning which allows the realisation of the potential of each individual entrusted to society can only be realised in a milieu of service and upliftment.