Educators have the right to work in an environment in which they feel valued and respected, where they may actively support learner’s development and learning and where they are free from fear, threat and harm. This is entrenched in the South African Bill of Rights. Chapter Two of the South African Constitution (RSA 1996). Section 12 (RSA, 1996, p. 30) states that everyone has the right “to be free from all forms of violence and not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhumane, or degrading way”. Fundamentally, teachers, like anybody else, have a right to dignity and the right to life. Section 23 of the Constitution provides that: everyone has the right to fair labour practices. Labour rights (according to Labour Relations Act (LRA) and Employment of Educators Act) include protecting employees against unfair dismissals, teachers’ rights to form and join a trade union, to participate in the activities and programmes of a trade union; and (c) to strike.
A teacher relies solely on the constitution; legislation, rules and policies. Apart from human rights, teachers’ rights include:
• to be respected in class;
• to teach in a conducive situation;
• to work in a safe working environment (ensured by the employer) and SACE;
• to be free;
• not to be discriminated against by race and gender;
• to dignity;
• to be treated reasonably and fairly;
• for voice and opinion to be heard at institutions and be taken seriously;
• to be empowered and made aware of their rights;
• to be advocated with their rights;
• to know the recourse when their rights have been violated;
• not to be victimised;
• not to be physically or verbally abused;
• the right to defend themselves (in accordance with the situation)
• to have intervals;
• for their voice to be heard;
• right to fair representation;
• right to remain silent until representation
• to be paid on time;
• to teach what they know, and what they trained for;
• to develop or study further; and
• to inclusivity (i.e., special people at the school, LGBTI).
• Right to access information
Who must campaign for these rights?
• Educators must be vigilant about their rights.
• Advocacy/support should be given by DBE, SGB’s, SAPS, SACE and every relevant stakeholder.
• Schools should develop protocols for teachers’ safety.
• Teachers should be led by teachers’ unions and DBE (with circulars that speak to the teachers’ rights).
• Individual teachers must implement these rights (i.e., mentoring each other at the school).
How can they be enforced or implemented?
• Have an independent person and a separate unit to intervene and link up with the DBE to mediate their concerns.
• The gap between the teachers and principals should be bridged.
• By having support from professionals, i.e., social workers, psychologists (to deal with the learners and teachers with psycho-social problems).
Where are these rights applicable?
• Broader community (to be part of the school systems).
• School environment.
• Classroom environment.
• Teachers are teachers at the school and outside the premises.
• Teachers’ conduct shown at school must also be shown outside the school environment.
For details, the reader is referred to Section 5: SACE Act 31 of 2000, Page E-17. There is demarcation between the role of the principal, or School Management Team (SMT), the School Governing Body (SGB) and the teacher The role of the SGB is to support the curriculum; the principal is the executive manager of the school; and the teacher is supposed to teach and educate the learners according to the prescriptions of the National Minimum Curriculum and the directives of the competent authority; and to educate them according to the educational needs, abilities and attainment of individual learners entrusted to his/her care by the Head of School. The core business of the teacher is to teach, and the core business of the learner is to learn.
What constitutes a responsible teacher?
• Teacher who is equipped to deal with challenges in various forms;
• Teacher who knows what to do when learners are fighting and when they are abusing substances such as drugs;
• Teacher who does not shy away from playing a parental role and who gets to understand and bond with learners;
• Teacher that is always present, punctual and well prepared to teach: and in this way, capable of developing and winning respect from the learner;
• Teacher who knows the learners and their challenges; and in this way a teacher will treat each learner’s incident on merit;
• Teacher who is equipped to deal with learners who are different, who are vulnerable and struggling, who are bullied, etc.;
• Teacher who is able to deal with diversity; and show understanding and tolerance for diversity.
• Teacher who can identify challenges and deal with them appropriately.
According to the SACE code of conduct for teachers, the main responsibilities (see Section 5: SACE Act 31 of 2000, Page E-17) are:
• Plans, prepares and delivers lessons.
• Teaches according to the educational needs, abilities and attainment of the individual pupils and groups of learners.
• Assigns work, corrects and marks regularly work carried out by his/her learners.
• Assesses, records and reports on the development, progress and attainment and behaviour of his/her learners.
• Provides or contributes to oral and written assignments, reports and references relating to individual learners or groups of learners.
• Participates in arrangements within an agreed national framework for the appraisal of the learner’s performance.
• Promotes the general progress and well-being of individual learners, groups of learners or class/es entrusted to him/her.
• Provides guidance and advice to learners on educational and social matters and on their further education and future careers, including information about sources of more expert advice.
• Communicates, consults and co-operates with other members of the school staff, including those having posts of special responsibility and parents in the interest of pupils.
• Participates during school time in meetings held in the interest of the learners.
• Reviews and evaluates his/her methods of teaching and learning and the teaching and learning programme/s within the National Minimum Curriculum.
• Advises and co-operates with the College’s Principal, Head of School, Assistant Head, other teachers and Education Officers in the preparations and development of courses of study, teaching material, teaching programmes, and methods of teaching, assessments, and pastoral care arrangements.
• Participates in further personal training and professional development as a teacher, including the attendance to in-service education and training courses prescribed by the Education Division authorities and agreed upon with the relevant trade union.
• Maintains good order and discipline among pupils and safeguards their health and safety at any time and place when learners are under his/her care.
• Participates in staff, group or other meetings for the better organisation and administration of the school or related to the school curriculum or pastoral care arrangements.
• Contributes to the professional development of new teachers and learner teachers according to arrangements agreed upon with the Head of School.
• Provides the necessary information and advice and makes the necessary requisitions and arrangements in connection with the teaching of the subject/s assigned to him/her.
• Ensures the safe custody of equipment normally used by him/her during lessons and sees to its regular servicing and maintenance.
• Attends school meetings.
• Registers the attendance of learners under his/her care.
• Shares in any possible and reasonable way in the proper management, organisation, order and discipline of the school.
Absence (see SACE code of conduct for teachers)
If you are unable to attend to your duties due to illness, you are to keep your school informed. A medical certificate (NI 46) is to be drawn up by your doctor on the first day of illness.
Accountability (as provided in SACE code of conduct for teachers)
As a teacher you are expected to:
• be punctual and give a full day’s work;
• be prepared for all lessons;
• keep all learners occupied and interested;
• mark all work constructively;
• monitor learners’ progress and keep an accurate record of it;
• Access the Ministry of Education website (www.education.gov.za) and other relevant websites regularly as this keeps you informed about latest developments taking place.
A support service for teachers is being offered by the district offices to those teachers that are:
• finding difficulties related to managing behaviour in class;
• having personal emotional difficulties that affect their performance in class;
• encountering hardship in integrating in the school system;
• passing through difficult times due to events that have happened in school which leave a negative impact on their life; and
• in need of advice on administrative issues.
• Report sexual offences