Newsletter 45 Learners assault teachers


The Cape Argus reported today [05/12/16] that in Cape Town “Thirty attacks on Western Cape teachers by pupils, parents and residents have been reported to the provincial education department this year, but teacher unions believe the number of unreported cases is much higher. In 23 of the 29 matters reported between January and last month, pupils were the perpetrators in 14 assault cases, six of verbal abuse, two sexual abuse cases and one in which a weapon was used to threaten a teacher. Over the same period, there were three cases where parents were accused of verbally abusing teachers, one case of a resident verbally abusing a teacher and, in two cases, residents robbed teachers.”

Union leaders told the Cape Argus they were “extremely concerned” about the safety of their members, and were encouraging teachers to report cases to the police. It is further reported that;

  • No pupils have been expelled this year for attacks against teachers.
  • In the 30th incident, reported this month, a Cloetesville teacher was beaten up and robbed in his classroom following a disagreement with a Grade 8 pupil.
  • Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the pupil reportedly ran home after the disagreement and fetched his father and another adult. “They reportedly attacked the teacher in his classroom leaving his face bruised and his eye blue. After the alleged attack, they reportedly left his classroom, allegedly taking an amount of R1 750 from the educator’s desk.”
  • Last month, a Kraaifontein principal was assaulted at his school, allegedly by two brothers. Shelver said following a disciplinary hearing, the expulsion of both pupils was recommended to the head of education.
  • Jonavon Rustin, provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, said many teachers who had reported attacks felt vulnerable because school governing bodies and the department did not take decisive action against the pupils involved. “The department as the employer has the responsibility to protect its employees. Our teachers are under siege in their own classrooms. But parents also have to take responsibility. Teaching respect starts in the home.”
  • Moses Standaar, provincial chairman of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), shared Rustin’s sentiments and said an Educator Rights Symposium, organised by Naptosa Western Cape, would be held later this month. Teachers’ rights when assaulted by pupils would be one of the topics of discussion.
  • Morne Janson, provincial secretary of the SA Teachers’ Union, said many teachers did not report cases of assault for a number of reasons. Janson said the union was aware of a case where a teacher who had been attacked and another teacher who came to support him, had asked the district official to provide them with counselling. He said although counselling was provided for pupils, teachers had to pay for a private provider.

The Pretoria News reported [September 2013] that another teacher has been attacked by a pupil – this time the teacher was shot and has ended up in hospital. “This second violent incident this week by pupils against teachers has raised questions about how safe our schools are.” The incident on Friday came just a day after an outrageous video went viral, showing a Grade 8 pupil from Glenvista High School, south of Joburg, attacking his teacher with a chair and a broom, while other pupils laughed and egged him on. The Sasolburg youth has been arrested. It is believed he is undergoing psychological assessments. He is expected to appear in the Sasolburg Magistrate’s Court soon.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has expressed outrage at the recent school violence. “The minister is disturbed by the violent behaviour of a Glenvista pupil and would recommend that all those present be given trauma counselling,” spokeswoman Troy Martens said. “This incident must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and the relevant punishment meted out.

“Schools should remain a no-violence zone where educators and pupils can feel safe for teaching and learning to take place. Violence will not be tolerated in schools, whether it is perpetuated by teachers, pupils or parents. Corporal punishment is not an option, as this is a form of violence in itself,” Martens said.

The Glenvista High School footage shows the pupil trying to retrieve what looks like a school bag from the teacher. After failing to get it back, he hits and kicks the teacher, then throws a chair and a broom as the teacher walks out of the classroom. The pupil and those cheering him on should all be disciplined, Martens said.

  • Gershwin Chuenyane, spokesman for the Gauteng Education Department, said the school’s governing body would conduct the disciplinary hearing. “The investigation is under way. When we have a report the department can act.”
  • Matakanye Matakanya, the general secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, was shocked by the incident. “We can only condemn this kind of violence. It’s horrifying.”
  • Matakanya joined hundreds of people around the country who lauded the teacher for the way he handled the incident and for not retaliating against the student.
  • Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said: “Teachers are not safe in schools. We have been calling for more security for teachers. Violence against teachers and pupils must be condemned because it has long term repercussions.”

Christian Democratic Party leader Theunis Botha said the problem with ill-disciplined children was that corporal punishment has been banned in schools. “The Biblical teaching of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ has become taboo, and the country is paying the price.”

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