Sexual violence and harassment in South African schools:

Findings from a media study


  • Corene de Wet University of the Free State, South Africa



Galtung, media study, qualitative content analysis, schools, sexual violence


This qualitative media study, undertaken within an interpretative research paradigm, aims to expand our knowledge of sexual violence perpetrated against learners in South African public and private schools. Due to ethical, normative and methodological barriers surrounding research on sexual violence in schools, South African English language newspapers were used as data source. The SA Media database was utilised to identify 153 relevant newspaper articles published in the period of 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2022. Themes were identified by means of qualitative content analysis. The findings shed light on the extent of sexual violence in schools, the acceptance and normalisation of teacheron- learner sexual violence, the exploitation of learners’ academic and athletic aspirations by teachers and coaches, and the imbalance of power and consequent abuse of power in a country where hegemonic masculinity prevails. Moreover, the study found teachers, coaches, caregivers, taxi drivers and fellow learners to be perpetrators of sexual violence. The study also highlights the negative effects of sexual violence on the victims’ academic, mental, physical and social wellbeing. Drawing on Galtung’s typology of violence, three dimensions of violence, namely personal or direct violence, indirect or structural and cultural violence were identified. This multidimensional interpretation emphasises the need to address this scourge on direct, structural and cultural levels.


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How to Cite

de Wet, C. (2024). Sexual violence and harassment in South African schools: : Findings from a media study. Perspectives in Education, 42(1), 113–130.



March 2024 Violence in South African schools Special Edition March 2024