Vi­o­lence against pupils un­der spot­light in KZN schools

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - SIPHELELE BUTHELEZI & SIHLE MLAMBO

“I HAVE not seen an in­ci­dent worse than this and I grew up in a sys­tem where it was le­gal!”

That was the re­ac­tion of Tim Gor­don, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the School Gov­ern­ing Body Foun­da­tion, to a video show­ing how a teacher as­saulted a teenage pupil.

The spot­light on vi­o­lence at schools in Kwazulu-na­tal comes af­ter a teacher was caught as­sault­ing at least two fe­male pupils with a cane at Umd­lamfe Sec­ondary in Esikhaw­ini, near Richards Bay.

A pupil was beaten on her legs and body af­ter the teacher wres­tled with her.

The footage was recorded by fel­low class­mates.

The Congress of South African Stu­dents (Cosas) called on town­ship schools to stamp out cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

Cosas spokesper­son Nox­olo Makhanya said teach­ers knew it was wrong but used mis­be­hav­ing pupils as an ex­cuse.

“We will re­tal­i­ate against cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment by tak­ing bru­tal ac­tion in the form of open­ing crim­i­nal cases against teach­ers,” she said.

Teach­ers said ill-dis­ci­pline was a problem at schools as par­ents did not play an ac­tive role in the ed­u­ca­tion of their chil­dren.

Vuma Mfeka, the for­mer prin­ci­pal of Um­gaga High in um­lazi, said teach­ers needed to be trained in how to deal with ill-dis­ci­pline.

“There were no al­ter­na­tives given on how to pun­ish pupils.

“Teach­ers are mak­ing their own de­ci­sions.

“In my time cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was al­lowed but it had lim­i­ta­tions,” he said.

He re­ferred to the in­ci­dent as an as­sault.

No­marashiya Caluza, teacher union Sadtu’s pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary, said such in­ci­dents un­der­mined the good work of teach­ers.

“We are try­ing by all means to stop this. The depart­ment needs to look be­yond the law, this is a so­ci­etal problem. Pupils beat pupils, pupils beat teach­ers and some teach­ers beat pupils,” she said.

Paul Colditz, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Fed­er­a­tion of SA Schools (Fed­sas), said the new ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was un­der­pinned by par­ents and the com­mu­ni­ties tak­ing own­er­ship of schools.

He said the 23 719 pub­lic schools in the coun­try were run by SGBS and not govern­ment be­cause there were no state schools, but pub­lic schools owned by the peo­ple of this coun­try.

“As a col­lec­tive the SGB takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for the school,” he said. “Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment and vi­o­lence have al­ways been there, it was brought to the pub­lic eye be­cause of the smart­phone and so­cial me­dia. If that was not recorded on a phone, few would have known about it, but we can’t say there is an in­crease. It does ex­ist at schools.

“What this in­ci­dent does is bring to the pub­lic eye that par­ents and the com­mu­nity are not tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said.

Colditz said a long-term so­lu­tion to the problem in­volved ev­ery­one in the school com­mu­nity adopt­ing the val­ues of the con­sti­tu­tion – those of hu­man dig­nity, equal­ity and free­dom.

“No teacher should con­sider as­sault­ing a child. That was not cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, that was as­sault. We are not go­ing to change at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iours at the school by re­plac­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment with an al­ter­na­tive pun­ish­ment,” said Colditz.

Colditz said SGBS needed to be used as the fo­cal point to drive a value-driven ap­proach of re­spect, loy­alty and by adopt­ing con­sti­tu­tional val­ues.

“Par­ents should then re­alise that they have an obli­ga­tion to their chil­dren, the teach­ers and the schools. There is no quick fix. We need to change our mind­sets to dis­ci­pline with eth­i­cal val­ues,” he stressed.

Pro­fes­sor Kobus Ma­ree, an ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist from the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, said schools were mim­ick­ing so­ci­ety.

“The vi­o­lence at schools is symp­to­matic of what is hap­pen­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties. Poverty lev­els are es­ca­lat­ing and peo­ple are an­gry,” he said.

Ma­ree said per­cep­tion in so­ci­ety was that the elite did not care about the poor and that gang­sters got away with mur­der. This, he said, had an ef­fect on pupils.

“Peo­ple are tak­ing bil­lions and they are get­ting away with it. The poor be­come frus­trated and they have no re­sources and their anger boils over be­cause they are set up for a dark fu­ture,” he said.

Vi­o­lent lan­guage and be­hav­iour from home was then re­pro­duced at schools, he said.

“The mo­ment a teacher senses learn­ers are an­gry, start com­mu­ni­cat­ing, talk to the class rep­re­sen­ta­tive, talk to the prin­ci­pal,” he said.

Gor­don said when pupils were given rights in the new South Africa, it was sup­posed to change the au­to­cratic na­ture of schools. But, he said, pupils were still ex­pected to treat teach­ers with re­spect.

He said the tran­si­tion posed a huge mind­set shift which teach­ers were still strug­gling to cope with.

“They were sim­ply told now it is stopped,” he said, re­fer­ring to cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

Pupils pro­voked teach­ers to a point of them los­ing their tem­per, but as adults, teach­ers had no ex­cuse for act­ing in a vi­o­lent man­ner.

Schools should sit down and dis­cuss cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment is­sues and how best to deal with them, he said. As an al­ter­na­tive pun­ish­ment, he said, iso­lat­ing the pupil from oth­ers and mak­ing them do tasks such as mow­ing the grass, pulling out weeds, and pick­ing up lit­ter, were op­tions.

Aca­demic ex­er­cise-driven pun­ish­ments were bad as they sent the mes­sage that learn­ing was bad.

Kwazi Mthethwa, a spokesper­son for the KZN ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment, said 300 teach­ers had been dis­missed for cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, sexre­lated of­fences and fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment since MEC Mthandeni Dlung­wane took over last year.

“Teach­ers can’t beat up pupils and claim they want them to do bet­ter or it is part of pun­ish­ment.

“Teach­ers must use com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills to deal with ill-dis­ci­plined pupils and if it fails in­volve the prin­ci­pal and par­ents,” he said.

Up-and-com­ing su­per­star of Kearsney Col­lege’s rugby first team, Sibu­siso Sang­weni, breaks from the Michael­house de­fence.

A high school teacher beats a pupil at the Umd­lamfe Sec­ondary in Esikhaw­ini.the teacher has been sus­pended.

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