My face was throbbing for hours – alleged assault victim
Teacher claims head of department slapped her during school argument
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.
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.