A worldwide survey of teachers and principals from schools in 48 different countries has found that South Africa has the highest rate of bullying and intimidation among pupils.
The findings from the Teaching and Learning International (TALIS) study, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that school safety incidents occur more frequently in South Africa than other countries which participated in the survey.
"One out of three principals (34%) report that acts of intimidation or bullying among their students occur at least weekly in their school, which is more than double the OECD average," a report summary says.
"In addition, about one out of four principals reported weekly incidents related to the use or possession of drugs and/or alcohol at school (South Africa 27%; OECD average 1%) as well as vandalism and theft (South Africa 21%; OECD average 3%) which are comparatively very infrequent in other countries."
'It takes a village to raise a child'
Commenting on these findings, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said it confirmed what was already known.
"It confirms the things that we know are in our schools... and reinforces the message that we need to deal with them," Motshekga told media on Tuesday.
She said that, while it was part of the department's responsibility to correct this behaviour in students, it was ultimately society as a whole that needed to help raise children.
"It takes a village to raise a child, so we have a responsibility as the education department to support the learners, to conscientise them about proper social behaviour. So, we take responsibility and we have a role to play.
"But we are saying... all of us South Africans have to do our part to raise our kids."
'Lots of issues that we need to confront'
The TALIS report was not all doom and gloom for South African educators, as 86% of the country's teachers were found to routinely assess their students' progress by observing them and providing immediate feedback, compared to the OECD average of 79%.
According to the report, the OECD average of novice teachers being assigned a mentor was 22%, while in South Africa 50% of teachers with up to five years of experience were assigned a mentor.
Motshekga was also surprised by the finding that 81% of teachers in South Africa feel they can cope with the challenges of a multicultural classroom, compared to 67% across the OECD.
The minister said this was an unexpected finding, which she found heartening.
"There are lots of issues that we need to confront. This report will help us engage with those," Motshekga said.
The TALIS survey was conducted in 2018, across 48 countries. Over 260 000 teachers were interviewed from 15 000 different schools across the globe. South Africa was the only African country to take part in the survey.