Ter­ror in schools

Class­rooms should be a safe place of learn­ing for chil­dren, but they are be­ing turned into bat­tle­fields, write Zi­zonke May and Yolanda Palezweni

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News -

The class­room is be­ing turned into a bat­tle­ground in­stead of a place of learn­ing – with both pupils and the teach­ers on the re­ceiv­ing end of ver­bal and even phys­i­cal abuse.

Re­cent in­ci­dents in Nel­son Man­dela Bay have high­lighted what should be an ab­so­lute nono – both a teacher and pupils be­ing at­tacked – and ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties ac­knowl­edge there is huge con­cern.

There is gen­eral con­sen­sus the de­part­ment of basic ed­u­ca­tion’s poli­cies on dis­ci­pline in schools are in­ef­fec­tive.

Week­end Post set up an on­line poll for a week, pos­ing the ques­tion: “Are our teach­ers and pupils safe?”

An alarm­ing 98% of re­spon­dents felt vi­o­lence in schools was a na­tional cri­sis.

Pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment spokesper­son Mal­i­bongwe Mtima at­trib­uted the in­crease in vi­o­lence and vic­tim­i­sa­tion at schools to those who have aban­doned their roles.

“There are three crit­i­cal role­play­ers – par­ent, learner and ed­u­ca­tor. Now, should any of these role-play­ers aban­don their re­spon­si­bil­ity we tend to have such in­ci­dents.

“When par­ents are dis­en­gaged from the ed­u­ca­tion of their chil­dren, a learner may [vic­timise] an ed­u­ca­tor,” Mtima said.

He said be­fore teach­ers as­sumed their du­ties, the de­part­ment took them through skills train­ing.

“Be­fore teach­ers re­port to class they are trained on how to con­duct them­selves in the class­room. We make a crit­i­cal eval­u­a­tion on the traits an ed­u­ca­tor should har­bour.

“It is un­for­tu­nate how­ever, that even with that, some teach­ers will choose to dis­re­gard what they have been trained on,” Mtima said.

He said the de­part­ment en­cour­aged par­ents not only to re­port cases to the school, but fur­ther open a crim­i­nal case as vi­o­lence against chil­dren was a crim­i­nal of­fence.

East­ern Cape leg­is­la­ture ed­u­ca­tion port­fo­lio com­mit­tee chair Mzoleli Mrara said the col­lapse of fam­i­lies as units was a con­trib­u­tor to the alarm­ing rate of vi­o­lence at schools.

“When par­ents fail to dis­ci­pline a child at home, there is no miracle that would make the child be obe­di­ent at school.

“The col­lapse of fam­ily unity is re­flected in col­lapsed dis­ci­pline at schools,” Mrara said.

He said the le­gal­i­sa­tion of dagga in pri­vate would make mat­ters worse.

“Govern­ment poli­cies are good, but they are way too ad­vanced for a de­vel­op­ing coun­try. We come from a vi­o­lent past and a coun­try that adopted a cul­ture of us­ing vi­o­lence to solve is­sues,” he said.

He said school gov­ern­ing bodies needed to en­gage with teach­ers and pupils to de­velop poli­cies that would work for schools.

“Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was banned be­cause it in­fringes the rights of chil­dren and was never a so­lu­tion.”

He said many aca­demics have fo­cused on the prob­lem, for­get­ting to drill down into the causal fac­tors of ex­ist­ing vi­o­lence.

“We need to work to­gether, not sep­a­rate schools from a com­mu­nity, and tackle the is­sue of vi­o­lence in school.”

On the flip side, a Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity mas­ter’s grad­u­ate, Roelof Cam­pher, has based his mas­ter’s study in 2016 on bul­ly­ing – whether tar­get­ing pupils or teach­ers.

His study looked at whether the phe­nom­e­non af­fected the qual­ity of learn­ing.

“My re­search af­firmed that bul­ly­ing towards ed­u­ca­tors has a se­verely neg­a­tive im­pact on the qual­ity of teach­ing and learn­ing in class­rooms in the South African con­text.

“It also elu­ci­dated the fact that the ed­u­ca­tor’s health and well­ness are neg­a­tively af­fected,” he said.

Cam­pher is now do­ing his PhD at the Univer­sity of the Free State, bas­ing this on the pre­ven­tion of bul­ly­ing.

“[It] is aimed at pro­vid­ing an in­for­ma­tion base that can be used in the for­ma­tion of a bul­ly­ing-pre­ven­tion pol­icy for the de­part­ment of basic ed­u­ca­tion to use – whether in a work­shop for­mat or to ed­u­cate teach­ers re­gard­ing ed­u­ca­tor-tar­geted bul­ly­ing,” he said.

School ac­tivist and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Art­Works for Youth John Lom­bardo said the or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sented 15 schools in the Bay and only two of the 35 stu­dents felt safe at school.

“[Ed­u­ca­tors] have told me that so many pupils in high school are un­ruly and that cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment is the only op­tion.

“What makes lit­tle sense about this be­lief is that the same child, more likely than not, has been beaten by teach- ers since grade R.

“Imag­ine if teach­ers were struck by prin­ci­pals when they were late or did not at­tend class.

“Learn­ers are not be­ing pre­pared for life af­ter high school, and many are not [even] pre­pared to make it [through] grade 12,” Lom­bardo said.

South African Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors spokesper­son Themba Ndhlovu said the or­gan­i­sa­tion strongly con­demned vi­o­lence at schools and has pro­grammes to tackle the phe­nom­e­non.

“The coun­cil dis­cour­ages and strongly con­demns the use of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment and is pros­e­cut­ing all cases brought to its at­ten­tion.

“The Con­tin­u­ing Pro­fes­sional Teacher Devel­op­ment sys­tem was es­tab­lished to main­tain pro­fes­sional [prac­tice at schools],” Ndhlovu said.

Its ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude:

Teacher-ini­ti­ated ac­tiv­i­ties where it is re­quired for a teacher to do self-in­tro­spec­tion and out­line the chal­lenges that need in­ter­ven­tion; and

Where there are fights be­tween teach­ers and pupils, the school needs to sit down and dis­cuss the fun­da­men­tal fac­tors of the in­ci­dents.

Ndhlovu said re­gard­less of the scourge, there were still teach­ers who were able to dis­ci­pline pupils with­out raising their hands.

“Schools are part of our so­ci­eties and we be­lieve that ev­ery­thing starts at home.

“If par­ents could in­still dis­ci­pline at home and a child knows a teacher is also a par­ent we would see a de­cline in this phe­nom­e­non,” Ndhlovu said.

Our schools are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing crime scenes‚ hence we need a joint ef­fort from all to fight the scourge of crime in our schools Angie Mot­shekga BASIC ED­U­CA­TION MIN­IS­TER She was speaking at a school safety sum­mit in Cen­tu­rion‚ Pre­to­ria, fol­low­ing the death last month of Daniel Mokolo­bate‚ a teacher in Zeerust‚ North West‚ who was stabbed by a pupil in front of other school­child­ren

Pho­to­graph: WERNER HILL

HAD ENOUGH: A pupil from a Uiten­hage school has spo­ken out af­ter she was phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally bul­lied by her high school teacher when she was in grade 10

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