This special issue of Agenda on ‘Gender violence and education’ shows why violence remains an intractable problem in education. In putting educational settings under the spotlight, the intention is to understand better the nature, form and extent of gender violence across the spectrum of education and to provide a nuanced account of gender violence – one that recognises the “other half of gender”, the cultural and social constructions of masculinities and femininities and the ways in which young women and girls are often the victims.

Forms of violence in education include sexual violence and harassment, physical violence and homophobia – each illustrating that violence in education is a problem, and a problem for boys and men.

Southern African education systems, whether in South Africa, Lesotho or Zimbabwe, are not outside the cultures, social structures and ideological positions that shape the expression of power and male violence. Gender violence in education cannot be discussed without attention to the social conditions and processes that produce it, without men and boys and without understanding the effects on women and girls at the same time.

Ending violence is also part of ending social and economic inequalities – but gender violence in education can be prevented through political will, enforcement of policy and changing cultural and social practices. Contributions to this issue elaborate on and contribute to the growing scholarship on gender violence and education, increasing our understanding and confirming the continual need for attention on education as a significant institution where gender violence is expressed – and repressed.