“Boys’ role in life is to protect and defend”

Primary school boys’ constructions of masculinity within a context of violence





boys, defence, masculinities, protection, school violence


Boys have been found to be the main perpetrators of violence and bullying in schools, putting a spotlight on masculinities. However, boys are not always active producers of violence. This article examines ways in which primary school boys who denounce violence explain their participation in it. It draws attention to how dominant gender and heterosexual ideologies impact the lives of boys at school. The data draws from a larger qualitative study which focuses on the experiences of school violence amongst boys in a primary school in KwaZulu Natal. The sample comprised fifteen grade seven boys. The primary method of data production was semi-structured individual interviews. The findings show that although the boys in the study condemned school violence, many could not escape being part of it. As boys, they felt compelled to protect and defend themselves, their families, girls and their friends. In their efforts to resist and mediate violence, they often resorted to violent methods in their masculine constructions. This article argues that it is necessary to focus on boys’ perspectives and shift the focus on violence from problematic individual behaviour to complex social and cultural contexts within which they navigate the everyday world of school. Towards this end, the conflicting implicit and explicit demands on boys sustained through social and institutional structures must be reworked.


Download data is not yet available.




How to Cite

Singh, S., & Gopaldass David, S. L. (2024). “Boys’ role in life is to protect and defend”: Primary school boys’ constructions of masculinity within a context of violence. Perspectives in Education, 42(1), 84–97. https://doi.org/10.38140/pie.v42i1.7187



March 2024 Violence in South African schools Special Edition March 2024