Newsletter 315 - SACE - Teacher Handbook (Draft) - Context


"It is SACE’s hope that this Teachers’ handbook will be of great help to educators in terms of knowing their rights, responsibilities as well as protecting themselves; and creating a safe school environment to be able to deliver lessons without fear and intimidation by their learners. In this way, hopefully, the passion for the education profession will be regained. But most importantly, the educators will be able to provide the learners with knowledge for social and psychological development which will, as a result, be beneficial to the whole of South Africa."

The Teacher’s Handbook


"While teachers are supposed to provide learners with knowledge and a safe environment for social and psychological development; they are also expected to be role models to learners and are responsible for protecting them from harm as well as promoting the learner’s well-being. While learners are expected to show respect to teachers, they themselves are attacking teachers, to the extent of even killing them on school premises."


  • What is happening in South African schools currently, is alarming; violence of learners against teachers has reached unprecedented proportions.
  • The violent behaviour in schools is unbearable and it is high time something drastic is done about it.
  • According to the research done (and based on academic articles, journals, newspaper articles and sources of interviews conducted between 2014 and 2018) by Daya Chetty, President of South African Principal's Association (SAPA), Gauteng and Principal of Laudium Secondary School, among 20000 teachers at 1380 schools across the country: 20% of South Africa's teachers believe that schools are violent places and suspect their learners and colleagues are armed; and about 17% of teachers reported fights involving weapons at school and almost 13% of teachers believe gangs operate in their school.
  • They don't want to be known as the person who was unable to discipline a child, so many are quiet about it.
  • But for most teachers, they feel that even when the methods are applied, it is the consequences that are not adequate and very often teachers complain about the children who have been found guilty of all sorts of mayhem, are then placed back into the same class with the very same teachers that they may have assaulted.
  • These pupils come back as heroes to their fellow learners and it just further breaks down the entire system of discipline.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE Report, 2014) emphasises the importance of creating safe schools that encourage respect for human rights. It further states that the responsibility of pupils is to respect educators and their important role; while teachers are encouraged to adhere to a code of ethics, and SACE promotes, professional development of all educators. There are many documents that support teachers engaging in teaching in safe and secure environments but what is good on paper may not necessarily be practiced. For e.g., DBE has provided a framework for a whole-school approach for principals and educators to be held accountable for school safety and schools to develop and maintain safe, welcoming, violence-free learning environments. Schools must implement this framework.


Historically, South Africa has a long-standing link to violence in that the Apartheid systems of control undeniably encouraged violence in schools. A child’s development of violent behaviour can only be understood by exploring the ecology of the context in which the child grows up, using the Bronfenbrenner’s (1994) ecological systems theory. Learners become aggressive towards their teachers for various reasons but mostly due to underlying factors like poverty, drug or substance abuse and dysfunctional families (see Henry,, 2000; McMahon,, 2013; Wilson & Lipsey, 2007). There are several external factors (e.g., gangsterism) and internal factors of violence (e.g., school leadership and management) that affect the safety of teachers in a school environment. These factors have significant implications for the ways in which schools are organized and managed and the ways in which learners do or do not see themselves as part of a genuine school community. This scenario is exacerbated by the presence of family and neighbourhood adults in the lives of these young people who had been incarcerated or involved in drug-related or other criminal activities. Many children are brought up in homes with single parents (mostly mothers) or no parent at all and such circumstances impact drastically on the child’s wellbeing and behavioural development. The risk for school violence is often compounded by community level factors, such as alcohol and drug availability as well as access to weapons. This information highlights the importance of safe communities and safe home environments as prerequisites for safe schools.

The characteristics that are related to violence include school demographic characteristics (for e.g., most schools with violence activities are in townships especially those near taverns), administrative practices as well as school disorder characteristics (see Bennett & Fraser, 2000; McMahon & Watts, 2002; McMahon, et al., 2013.

Factors of high levels of violence are, among others, school level, enrolment size, location, crime where learners live, number of classroom changes, number of serious discipline problems, and number of school wide disruptions. School violence affects not only those who are directly victimised but also those who witness the violence occurring at schools, creating an atmosphere of fear and apprehension, which interfere with a learner’s ability to learn. Situations of prevalent violence are associated with a rise of teacher absenteeism, sickness (e.g., depression), resignation or early retirement and hating the teaching profession altogether.


  • The learners’ violence against their teachers in South African schools has reached alarming proportions.
  • A participant summarised the children of today that, “…the youngsters of today have a bit more arrogance/ attitude within the classrooms, they think they ‘own’ the classroom.
  • They have no respect for teachers, and they don’t value learning.
  • They attend school just for the sake of it. Teachers feel disheartened, as they put in a lot of effort and learners don’t want to listen”, and another added,
  • “We have broken families and a broken generation of children”.
  • Currently, teachers are not doing their job they used to do in the past; in some schools, they wait for 5 to 30 minutes for the class to settle before they start to teach partly due to the violence.
  • Learners no longer respect teachers; they are physically, verbally, emotionally, and directly or indirectly abusing them, leaving a deep mark on the self-confidence and self-esteem of teachers.
  • Teachers are overloaded, apart from too much work they are supposed to do as teachers, they are also supposedly doing the work of the parent, a psychologist or counsellor and a social worker, while they are, at the same time being physically or verbally abused by their learners.
  • The fears of personal safety often cause them to leave the profession of teaching altogether (see also Lyon & Douglas (1999).
  • This hinders teachers’ work, affecting job satisfaction and performance, and ultimately contributes to difficulties when they are attempting to create a healthy atmosphere in the classroom. In the end, this has an impact on education, and the final development and success of learners (Opic, Lokmic & Bilic, 2013).

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