Pupil abuse drives teacher out

‘They called me a bitch, slut and a witch’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MANYANE MANYANE

AS South Africa will to­mor­row com­mem­o­rate a day that put the spot­light on ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing apartheid, the pro­fes­sion is on the brink of los­ing one teacher due to abuse by pupils.

*El­iz­a­beth, a Grade 9 teacher in Katle­hong in Ekurhu­leni, is think­ing of chang­ing ca­reers af­ter her pupils in­sulted her.

The 28-year-old said the in­ci­dent hap­pened on What­sApp when her pupils added her to a class group chat.

She said the in­ci­dent stemmed from the fact that the pupils did not like how she han­dled them dur­ing school hours and that she was very strict.

“I gave my num­bers to learn­ers in my class and I got an in­vite on What­sApp last year around Au­gust.

“I saw the in­vi­ta­tion at mid­night on that day. When I opened it the fol­low­ing day I saw the in­sult­ing mes­sages from my learn­ers. They called me a bitch, slut, a witch and that they were not scared of me,” she said.

El­iz­a­beth is not the only teacher who has suf­fered abuse at the hands of her pupils. The Gaut­eng Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment re­cently re­leased a re­port of cases of pupils as­sault­ing teach­ers.

Although the abuse that El­iz­a­beth suf­fered from her pupils was not phys­i­cal, it af­fected her so much that she has lost her pas­sion for teach­ing.

The depart­ment said 10 cases of as­sault were re­ported in 2014, while 26 were re­ported in 2015 and 21 last year. The re­port con­firmed that Joburg East, where El­iz­a­beth is work­ing, had the high­est num­ber of as­sault cases, with five in 2015 and four last year.

Ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment, pupils found guilty of mis­con­duct are re­ha­bil­i­tated, and can be re­in­stated af­ter suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of a di­ver­sion pro­gramme. In 2015, of 26 pupils fac­ing se­ri­ous mis­con­duct, 14 were ex­pelled, while 12 were re­in­stated.

About her abuse, El­iz­a­beth said: “I was shocked and couldn’t be­lieve that I was in­sulted by peo­ple who I care for.

“I for­warded the case to my prin­ci­pal but I never liked the way he dealt with it. He just called par­ents to apol­o­gise to me and I felt the apol­ogy was not enough.

“I can’t stand in front of chil­dren who called me slut, bitch and witch and pre­tend things are right. At least they should have sus­pended those learn­ers.”

“I am one of the teach­ers who don’t like bad at­ti­tudes in my class and I be­lieve there must be a change to ev­ery­one close to me. So those learn­ers hate me for that,” she said.

She told The Star these pupils were old enough to have com­pleted ma­tric last year but were strug­gling in Grade 9.

“And some of these boys are dagga ad­dicts, while girls are smok­ing cig­a­rettes. One of the rea­sons they be­have so wild is be­cause there is no more cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment at schools. And maybe some look at my slim body and feel we are the same age so who am I to tell them what to do. Some­times they were not even lis­ten­ing to my les­sons,” El­iz­a­beth said.

Now El­iz­a­beth wishes she could have an­other qual­i­fi­ca­tion so she could ap­ply for an­other job.

A deputy prin­ci­pal at the school be­lieves so­cial fac­tors and the econ­omy also af­fect pupils’ bad be­hav­iour.

“We know oth­ers were in­flu­enced by dagga, while oth­ers be­came un­con­trol­lable be­cause of age. And oth­ers use Gaut­eng Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi as the bo­gey­man.

“Ev­ery time teach­ers rep­ri­mand learn­ers, par­ents would threaten to re­port them to Le­sufi,” she said.

An­other school in the area re­ported that a pupil at­tacked a teacher and poured a bucket of wa­ter over the teacher last year af­ter be­ing rep­ri­manded for bad be­hav­iour.

A teacher in an­other high school in Ekurhu­leni said it had be­came fash­ion­able for pupils to in­sult teach­ers at her school.

“If they also do that to prin­ci­pal then who I am to stop them? They al­ways in­sult us and this is what they do and no one can change them,” she said.

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