School violence has become an international issue in education systems because it has affected not only delivery of educational services, but also lives of students.
Since education systems in various countries aim at enhancing intellectual capacity and shaping development of behaviors in society, it is critical in development of a peaceful and prosperous society, which relies on values and ethics. School violence is a global phenomenon for various studies show that due to globalization, developing countries are now experiencing high incidences of school violence signifying that they are adopting trends in developed countries.
However, education systems play significant role in unifying diverse society as it provides a platform where children socialize and share different values of society and become assimilated into diverse society.
According to Benbenishty and Astor, school violence is a global issue that needs concerted interventions from various countries and stakeholders in formulation of theories and policies to avert increasing trends of violence in schools (75). Therefore, how can functionalism and conflict theory help us understand the nature of school violence?
According conflict theory, violence is an inherent and natural tendency of human beings as it provides means of struggling and achieving resources.
People in the society are constantly struggling to a achieve resources such as power, class, and status to keep abreast with social, economic, and political dynamics that shape lives. Smith argues that, most social conflicts emanate from unequal distribution of resources; power, class, and status, hence making people to struggle endlessly and eventually resort to violence as a means of achieving the resources (216).
In schools, there exists inequality among students and staff. Given that there is great power, class, and status difference between staff and students, it gives a potential source of conflict.
Sometimes tension occurs between student leaders and ordinary students due to power difference thus creating a conflict among students; moreover, students at times direct their aggressive behavior towards staff. Thus, existence of power, class, and status in schools forms the basis of violence that normally erupts many a times.
Functionalist theory perceives a society as a social system that depends on certain critical functions for society to survive sustainably and stand the test of time.
Therefore, since schools are social entities that function independently, they are social systems that need certain critical functions for them to run efficiently. According to Davis, for a social system to function effectively and efficiently, it requires appropriate allocation of roles and performance (4).
In schools, if there is poor allocation of roles that consequently results into poor performance, it affects functions of schools as a social system and in turn elicits conflict. This means that if administration fails to show appropriate leadership or students fail to obey leadership, conflicts arise. Thus, stalled functions due to insufficient leadership results into violence in schools.
Conclusively, violence in schools occurs due to unequal distribution of resources such as power, class, and status. Inequality in schools is the chief source of violence because conflicting parties will try to use violence as a means of achieving the scarce resources. Therefore, so long as there is inequality of resources in schools, violence is eminent.
In addition, poor administration of schools as social systems that require stringent allocation of roles and regulation of responsibilities results into conflicts and violence. Therefore, to avert rising cases of school violence across the world, education systems should ensure that there is equal distribution of resources and effective administration of schools.
Benbenishty, Rami and Astor, Ron. School Violence in an International Context: A Call
for Global Collaboration in Research and Prevention. International Journal of Violence and School, 4.6 (2008): 59-81.
Davis, Kingsley. Functionalist Theory. Sociological Studies, 2009: 1-12.
Smith, Allan. Theory Cumulation and Schools of Thought: Conflict and Critical Theories. Sociology, 2007: 211-241.