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
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
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