Act now on school ‘bat­tle­grounds’

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Opinion -

The class­room should be a safe space where chil­dren learn and adults teach with­out fear. Sadly, Week­end Post re­ports to­day on schools in the Nel­son Man­dela Bay metro which are more like bat­tle­grounds, with both pupils and teach­ers suf­fer­ing from ver­bal and some­times phys­i­cal abuse.

What is even more fright­en­ing is the loss of con­fi­dence in our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem on a wider scale. A stag­ger­ing 98% of those who re­sponded to a Week­end Post poll on­line said they felt vi­o­lence in our schools was a na­tional cri­sis.

This af­fects not only chil­dren and teach­ers but also par­ents who make up the third key dynamic in help­ing to pre­vent abuse or vi­o­lence in schools. Ad­mit­tedly par­ents are not ac­tu­ally in the class­room or on the school premises when re­ported abuses take place, but it is still their task to in­still in their chil­dren the val­ues of work­ing hard, self-dis­ci­pline and re­spect for le­git­i­mate au­thor­ity.

As pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment spokesper­son Mal­i­bongwe Mtima noted, if any of these three role-play­ers aban­don their re­spon­si­bil­ity “we tend to have such in­ci­dents”.

This does not, how­ever, min­imise the cul­pa­bil­ity of teach­ers, and the de­part­ment can­not escape blame for its em­ploy­ees who over­step the bound­aries of pro­fes­sional con­duct.

Vi­o­lence against school­child­ren is a crim­i­nal act and this in­cludes now-banned cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

How­ever, bul­ly­ing and in­tim­i­da­tion – whether from chil­dren or teach­ers – are also ex­tremely harm­ful as they af­fect the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment as a whole.

The au­thor­i­ties can­not get away with say­ing ed­u­ca­tors are trained to teach but not to deal with so­cial prob­lems with­out then tak­ing ac­tion to ad­dress this. If, as to­day’s re­ports sug­gest, our schools are in­creas­ingly a bat­tle­field, and so­cial ills make the task of teach­ing more chal­leng­ing, then it is time for the course ma­te­rial of stu­dent teach­ers to change. Our chil­dren’s fu­ture de­pends on it.

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