My face was throb­bing for hours – al­leged as­sault vic­tim

Teacher claims head of depart­ment slapped her dur­ing school ar­gu­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HE­LEN BAM­FORD

A TEACHER has laid a charge of as­sault against her head of depart­ment af­ter he al­legedly smacked her across the face dur­ing an ar­gu­ment in front of other teach­ers.

Tozama Ton­nie, 43, of Ke­nil­worth, who has taught math­e­mat­ics for 15 years at Sithem­bele Matiso Secondary in New Cross­roads, said she was “shocked and con­fused” af­ter the in­ci­dent, which had occurred on Tues­day.

The head of depart­ment has not been sus­pended and was still teach­ing yes­ter­day. Nei­ther he nor the prin­ci­pal Nomzi­wox­olo Dz­iba re­sponded to calls from Week­end Ar­gus. The West­ern Cape Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment has con­firmed it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent.

Ton­nie said the man had be­come fu­ri­ous dur­ing their ar­gu­ment, and claimed he had struck her without warn­ing.

“He’s a big guy and came down with force. My face was throb­bing for hours af­ter­wards.”

Ton­nie, the mother of an 11-year-old daugh­ter, said she had not been at school the pre­vi­ous Fri­day be­cause she had at­tended a fu­neral.

When she ar­rived at school at 8am on Tues­day af­ter the Women’s Day long week­end, a col­league, a Mr Mgi­jima, told her some Grade 9s had com­plained about her ab­sence from school.

Ton­nie said she had then called her depart­ment head.

“He told me the Grade 9s had com­plained that they did not un­der­stand me, that I did not come to class and that when I did I left be­fore the pe­riod ended.”

But she said this was not true, and the pupils’ work books proved this.

Ton­nie then checked with Mgi­jima who told her the pupils had been stuck with an as­sign­ment and had gone to him for help.

She called both the depart­ment head and Mgi­jima to­gether to try to get to the bot­tom of the com­plaint.

It was then that the se­nior teacher had al­legedly lost his tem­per and hit her.

Ton­nie, who was booked off for the rest of this week by a doc­tor, is con­sid­er­ing le­gal action.

She said she some­times felt un­safe in the class­room be­cause pupils were known to bring knives to school, but she had never imag­ined a col­league would hurt her.

“Now I don’t feel safe go­ing back. I would like a trans­fer.”

Po­lice spokesman In­spec­tor Ian Leibowitz con­firmed a case of as­sault had been opened and po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Paddy At­twell, spokesman for the West­ern Cape Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment, said they viewed the al­le­ga­tion in a very se­ri­ous light and a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing con­ducted.

He said re­ports of this kind were rare.

The depart­ment had re­ceived three sim­i­lar re­ports since March 31.

One of the cases, still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, also in­volved a male head of depart­ment al­legedly slap­ping a fe­male teacher.

A sec­ond, also be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, in­volved an in­ci­dent in which a woman teacher al­legedly broke a deputy prin­ci­pal’s read­ing glasses. She also broke cups and threw items around his of­fice.

At­twell said that in the third case a head of depart­ment al­legedly as­saulted a deputy prin­ci­pal dur­ing an ar­gu­ment. Both were men. A dis­ci­plinary hear­ing found the head of depart­ment not guilty.

Jon­avon Rustin, pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary of the South African Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union, con­firmed vi­o­lent in­ci­dents be­tween teach­ers were rare but they did oc­cur.

PIC­TURES: AYANDA NDAMANE

FEEL­ING THREAT­ENED: Teacher Tozama Ton­nie is too scared to re­turn to Sithem­bele Matiso Secondary, where she has taught maths for 15 years, af­ter her head of depart­ment al­legedly slapped her face on Tues­day.

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