Project Aim

To significantly reduce the high levels of violence in South African schools.


It is widely accepted that societies with the greatest gap between rich and poor are the most violent. Regrettably South Africa is a country in which the gap between the richest and the poorest continues to grow, despite 16 years of democracy.

Schools are as safe as the communities in which they are situated. In South Africa most schools are surrounded by communities in which violence occurs on a daily basis. The message that violence is normal is reinforced by the media and often by the learners’ own families.  We find that bullying, by both teachers and learners, is at the core of much of the violence in schools. Positions of power and authority are used to dominate and threaten others. We see teachers overpowering learners, principals overpower teachers, gang members  use their perceived power to terrorise non-gang members and big learners threaten and bully smaller learners in the schools.

Security infrastructure at schools - fencing, steel gates and policemen on school property - does not reach the core of the problem.

It is universally accepted that the arts provide a creative and safe space for expressing complex emotions and practicing life skills needed by learners. By the year 2000 specialised arts and sports teacher posts had been removed from state schools by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and learners were left with little opportunity to get rid of excess physical and emotional energy by playing sport or engaging in a creative activity. As most state schools in South Africa are unable to afford to pay for their own art, dance, drama or music teacher, most South African learners have no access to the arts and experience high levels of frustration, with an inevitable increase in incidents of violence at schools.

In response to this situation, the project, then known as peace education, began to train teachers in behaviour management in 2002. By 2007, we had learned that we needed to address the whole school culture including classroom management, and establish an ongoing framework for teachers to maintain a culture of non-violence at school.

In 2008, we were approached by a curriculum advisor at the WCED central district office to co-host a 3-day camp for learners and teachers on non-violence. This was the beginning of what was to become the non-violent schools campaign which has gone from strength to strength.

What the Non-Violent Schools Campaign does

The Non-Violent Schools Campaign addresses the levels of violence in schools. We work towards building an institutional culture of peace by training teachers and assisting them to set up peace clubs at their. The aim of this is to engage learners to contribute towards the reduction of violence in the school grounds.

The tools we use to do this are a 3-day camp, a 2-day indaba, the Alternatives to Violence Project and a Training of Trainers programme for teachers. All of these are detailed below.

In our Training of Trainers programme to which the other QPC projects also contribute, currently some 30 teachers from different schools are trained as peace educators once a month on a Saturday over a period of 14 months. Teachers are trained to teach the values of non-violence across the curriculum. The programme includes a module on counselling by Paul Cassidy of South African Resources and Counselling (SARC) and Access to Resources and Counselling (ARC) in the United Kingdom.

These teachers, who have volunteered for the training, are required to set up peace clubs for the learners, known as peace buddies, in their schools. QPC assists to establish and maintain these peace clubs and also supports one of the teachers to compile and edit our bi-annual peace buddies newsletter. We also host an annual peace buddies picnic on Human Rights Day, 21 March.

Peace buddies meet regularly to discuss, debate, play games and socialise. This gives them a sense of belonging and pride in themselves as custodians of peace.

We run the annual 3-day non-violent schools camp for peace buddies and their teachers. This camp has proved to be a life-changing experience for many of the peace buddies, and many more are anxious to attend the camp than can be accommodated.

The camp is followed by the annual 2-day non-violent schools indaba for teachers and learners to which new schools are invited as well as participating schools (Indaba is a Xhosa word meaning a meeting or sharing of ideas). The indaba provides a rare opportunity for learners and teachers to engage with education officials about best practice for non-violent schools.

The teachers are also trained as facilitators of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).

< style="font-family: arial;">AVP training focuses to a large extent on individual relationships; it encourages both an awareness of feelings from participants and a style of communication that takes positive relationships and feelings into account. Participants learn to transform their anger into non-violent responses to conflict. The training is practical and experiential-neither academic nor theoretical. It helps people to recognise the sources of violent behaviour within themselves and how to avoid and deal with violence in others. It provides affirmation, self confidence and communication skills and also provides skills needed for the victims of violence and, for those considering the use of violence; it provides more powerful, non-violent choices to meet legitimate needs.< style="font-family: arial;">Target Groups

*      Learners aged 14 – 18, principals of schools and teachers from high schools in the Western Cape.

*      Teachers from selected primary schools.

*      Curriculum Advisors and managers from the WCED

*      Head of Education, WCED


We launched the Non-Violent Schools Campaign in partnership with the Western Cape Education’s (WCED) Metropole South Education District (MSED) office in 2010 to try to significantly reduce the levels of violence in the south district schools. 

We began a pilot campaign with 8 schools over a period of 3 years (2008-2010) where we tested our multi-pronged approach and devised a 3-year strategy which we propose to run from 2011 – 2013.

2011: We propose to:

*      Train the teachers to be peace educators, to develop creative lessons that teach the message of non-violence across the curriculum and to change the attitude, in themselves and their learners, that violence is an effective way to deal with conflict. The teachers will learn how to teach the values of non-violence across the curriculum and will also learn how to use the creative arts as teaching methods. We propose to compile a booklet on bully-free schools using research and the information that the teachers offer based on their own experiences.

*      Train 10 new teachers from 10 new schools in 2011 bringing the number of participating teachers up to 38 teachers from 28 schools. Currently we have 28 teachers from 18 schools from the pilot project;

*      Set up sustainable Peace Clubs at participating schools. The peace clubs will be managed by a teacher but run by learners themselves. We plan to do regular interventions about diversity issues and the rights and responsibilities of young South Africans. We propose to support teachers and learners who are peace club members, known as “peace buddies to run an anti-bullying campaign at their schools. We propose to set up 10 new peace clubs at each of the 10 new schools in 2011. The average membership of peace clubs at schools is 30; therefore we will have 840 peace buddies in 2011.

*      Run a 3-day non-violent schools camp where teachers and learners will work together using both the visual and dramatic arts, to find alternative ways to deal with the violence they experience in their lives. Using visual arts we will equip the earners and teachers to design posters and slogans for an anti-bullying campaign in the schools. We plan to use the best of these to compile a calendar for distribution to all participating schools.

*      Equip teachers to develop curriculum material for use in the classroom at schools. In year 1 (2011) we propose that the teachers produce lesson plans in their subjects incorporating the values and message of non-violence. They will research the history of violence and the impact that this has had on our world.

*      Equip the learners to use drama to role play situations depicting various types of violence that affect them and will offer alternative ways of dealing with this violence and suggest ways in which young people can prevent these situations from happening in their own lives.

*      Host a 2-day non-violent schools indaba (A Zulu word meaning a meeting to exchange ideas) in 2011 to which we propose to invite schools from outside of the campaign and where we propose to focus on the constructive influence that the creative arts have on creating non-violent schools. In 2011 we plan to invite 150 people to the indaba, 50 of whom will be from new schools outside the campaign.

*      Include 3 primary schools in 2011 in the activities of campaign, so that the teachers can adapt the programmes and approach to design an appropriate equivalent campaign for primary schools. We will equip the teachers to work with us to advise us on, how peace clubs can work with young learners, and suitable non-violent curriculum material for primary levels.

  <>2012: We propose to:

*      Train an additional 10 teachers as Peace Educators from another 10 schools in 2012. Peace Clubs will have an average membership of 30 per school and thus we will have a total of 1140 peace buddies by the end of 2012.

*      Run the 3-day non-violent schools camp in year 2 (2012). We will inform teachers about climate change issues and explore ways of incorporating the messages about climate change into new lesson plans. In the same year we will equip learners to produce new posters for display in classrooms carrying new slogans for an anti-bullying campaign at their school. We will train them to use the dramatic arts to depict situations of violence in their lives and offer ways in which young people can deal with these situations in a non-violent way.

*      Invite 200 people to attend the indaba of whom 50 will be new to the campaign. The planned focus will be on a caring curriculum and the link between a healthily environment that nurtures us to care for others and an ability to care for the environment. A caring curriculum is one that takes cares of the academic needs of learners while at the same time providing support for the individual’s emotional needs and exercise for the body.

*       Include an additional 3 primary schools in the activities of campaign, so that the teachers can adapt the programmes and begin to role out appropriate versions of peace clubs in primary schools. We will train teachers to continue with the design of new non-violent curriculum material for primary levels and to set up peace clubs in the primary schools.

2013: We propose to:

*      Train an additional 10 Peace Educators from another 10 schools in 2013. By the end of the 3- year campaign we plan to have 58 teachers trained as peace educators from 48 schools. Peace Clubs will have an average membership of 30 per school and thus we will have a total of 1440 peace buddies by the end of 2013.

*      Run the non-violent schools camp where we will train teachers to compile booklets setting out how to establish, run and sustain peace clubs at schools with a roster of suitable activities for peace buddies. We will also equip them to prepare lesson plans on non-violence in the languages strand of the curriculum; dealing with creative writing exploring feelings about violence and peace through poetry, essays and letters. We will train the learners to use visual art to produce new material for the anti-bullying campaign. We will select the best posters of the 3-year campaign to display at an exhibition that we will organise at a central public venue in Cape Town. We will train learners to use drama to depict situations of violence that affect their lives and to suggest ways of dealing with this violence in a non-violent way.

*      Run the indaba and invite learners and teachers from the primary schools for the first time. The focus of the indaba will be on peer learning and academic achievement in a non-violent school and the re-introduction of drama and sport into the formal curriculum.

*      Work with 9 primary schools in 2013; each school will set up a peace club with an average membership of 30, making the number of peace buddies.

 Monitoring and Evaluation

As our long term aim is to offer our methods nationally, we are establishing formal, structured monitoring and evaluation procedures.  We recognise that though the past three years and the partnership with Western Cape Education Department has shown the value of the project, for national acceptance this must be more formally and independently demonstrated.

In three years time (end of 2013) we will have worked with a total of 57 schools. With the assistance of Western Cape Education Department, base-line conditions will be established in each school; the activities over the year will be closely monitored and recorded together with behavioural data from the school itself. The data and reports will be ready for formal, annual evaluation of the project impact. This process continues for at least three years in each school.

<>We maintain contact with all the schools which have joined the project since 2007. To make the best use of our own accumulated data we are also (with our partners help) collecting these schools own records of behavioural change and re-analysing the data so that by the end of 2013 there will be data and evaluations on some 40 schools.< style="font-family: arial;">This, with the accompanying documentation (manuals, guides, plans etc) will be the basis for the wider launch.<>Other Elements of the

NVSC Project

NVSC has grown out of years of work in and with schools and other training organisations. Overall project activities include:-

<>Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)

The Behaviour Management programme at CPUT gives student teachers the tools and understanding to manage the classroom without use of corporal punishment. This has been illegal since 1996 though in frequent use by teachers. This programme has run since 2003 and has trained 402 student teachers at CPUT.

Behaviour Management module is a compulsory part of the second year students professional studies programme. The training has been very successful and is highly regarded but the number trained at CPUT is small and other training institutions have not yet included this type of module in their curriculum. QPC provides the student teachers in the Western Cape with the only opportunity to do this training.

<>Working Group on Positive Discipline (WGPD)

In November 2007 QPC, working within a consortium comprising University of Cape Town and NGO’s RAPCAN, and Childline, began planning and lobbying the National Department of Education to present a Positive Parenting Programme in 9 ministerial schools over 18 months.  The programme aims to increase awareness of parenting skills and reduce the high levels of pregnancy among teenagers. It  involves learners, teachers, parents, school governing bodies as well as the local (provincial) education departments.  The proposal was submitted to the department in February 2009 and the project began in 2010.

<>Advocacy and Lobbying

NVSC presents it work regularly at public forums such as:

 *      A presentation on “Behaviour Management in a Non-Violent School” to the WCED Behaviour Management conference on 15th May 2010  where a lot of interest was expressed in the AVP element. It also facilitated at a Principals conference on 22nd May 2010 –“Relationship building in schools.”

*      Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development – September 2006 through to December 2007 when the clause forbidding parents to beat their children (in the Child Safety bill) was withdrawn.

*      Submission to South African Human Resources Commission on violence in schools (September 2006).

*      A paper at the International Conference on Student Discipline entitled ”Positive Discipline. A system that can work in South African Schools” (April 2007).

*      Panel member at SA Council of Churches Symposium on Child Rights – November 2007.

*      Article published in August 2008 in both the Cape Times and The Star supporting the establishment of Leaner Support Centres. A support centre provides a safety net for learners at risk of expulsion.  Learners are sent for a temporary period, continue their academic work and are helped to change their offensive behaviour by being engaged in activities which really interest them or in which they excel.

*      Article published in the Cape Times in August 2007 advocating positive discipline in schools, another in February 2008 advocating a bill of responsibilities for learners and one in August 2009 calling for a co-operative multi-pronged approach by all government departments to address violence in schools.


The NVSC project leader was awarded the White Ribbon in January 2010 from the Women Demand Dignity Foundation in recognition for the work done to improve the lives of women and children in the community.  There were 10 awards in South Africa and the project leader was interviewed on national radio by political analyst Justice Malala and Jane Raphaely, founder of the Foundation.


Creating schools where learners can learn and teachers can teach

Teachers and learners from selected schools attend a 3-day non-violent schools camp where they learn about violence from social, historic, scientific and climate change perspectives.

They also attend a 2-day non-violent schools indaba
where learners develop ways of dealing with violence in non-violent ways.

The campaign belongs to the learners and teachers
and they make a difference in their schools. See how it works.

What makes this campaign different?

It leaves behind lasting changes in the schools.

Learners become the agents of change in their schools, called Peace Buddies.

The campaign is grounded in the curriculum so that the culture of peace permeates all activities at school. 

Teachers from each school involved are trained in peace education so that they can teach the values of non-violence across the curriculum. 

Learners provide a non-violent presence at the school and introduce systems and ideas to maintain a non-violent climate at the school.

The teachers with the learners set up peace clubs at the schools to engage learners in creative and non-violent activities and outings, to broaden their understanding of non-violence and to occupy their free time in constructive ways

Learners choose what activities they want in the peace clubs

Learners and teachers publish the Peace Buddies newsletter twice a year.

Extract from the  Minister's letter of support:

... The only way to truly bring about change is to start the change within oneself and then to model that to the world. You need to walk the talk and not talk the walk. My challenge to you today is that you will become that change agent, within your family, school and community; that you will help to develop and nurture a safe non violent society that will truly become a home for all, irrespective of the persons race colour or political convictions.

Be the change agent that will change the course of history, become the change and influence the lives of others to become change agents for peace and non violence.
Yousuf Gabru


Feedback from learners at the camp 2008:

Feedback from learners

More about The Non-Violent Schools Campaign ...

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More about positive discipline (publications) ...

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Listen to Avril Knott-Craig being interviewed on Voice of the Cape on 23 August 2009 (radio interview) ...

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Listen to Avril Knott-Craig being interviewed on SAFM on 11 January 2010 (radio interview) ... 

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Listen to Avril Knott-Craig being interviewed on Bush Radio on 17 January 2012 (radio interview) ... 

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Read 'my bully my bra' - a resource for students, parents and teachers how to deal with bullying at school ... 

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Look at the anti-bullying posters created by students at the camp in 2011 ... 

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The Project Leader (Avril Knott-Craig) at the details on the index page.