Act now on school ‘battlegrounds’
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.