Sunday Times

Unruly schoolkids ‘are out of hand’

- By SAKHISENI KHUMALO — Additional reporting by Sipokazi Fokazi and Rorisang Kgosana

● Education unions have raised concerns about violent and ill-discipline­d pupils attacking and intimidati­ng teaching staff.

While this is a national issue, the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are the most problemati­c provinces, they say.

The National Profession­al Teachers’ Organisati­on of South Africa (Naptosa) told the Sunday Times it recorded 58 complaints of abuse from members last year.

In a shocking incident this month, a 13year-old grade 6 pupil allegedly shot the school principal, firing three shots at him at Primrose Hill Primary School in Germiston.

Two weeks ago, a teacher was viciously assaulted by a grade 7 pupil at Limpopo’s Rammupudu Primary School in Tafelkop.

Three weeks ago near Shongweni, KwaZulu-Natal, Dick Ndlovu High School deputy principal Sandile Mkhize was attacked by a group of former pupils inside the school premises in full view of other pupils and teachers. The brutal assault was captured on video. About five males between the ages of 16 and 21 are seen beating the deputy principal with sticks and golf clubs.

Sources at the school said the incident happened at about midday on January 31. Mkhize was taken to hospital and returned to school on Friday. It is alleged the attackers were former “naughty, ill-discipline­d” pupils with a grudge against Mkhize.

A senior school official said it wasn’t clear yet if Mkhize had opened a case of assault with the police.

“What was sad was to hear some learners celebratin­g and screaming ‘hit him’ and ‘serves him right’. This school is based in a very violent community. We believe whatever is happening is linked to the type of community the school is in,” said the school official.

“Learners, including grade 8s, bring knives and drugs to school, and I can’t tell you the [number] of fights we are experienci­ng. We live in a world of violent young people, but it all starts at home,” said a source.

Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel said the issue was “huge”, as incidents were not only reported in high schools but primary schools too, where pupils were expected to be more discipline­d and respectful.

He attributed the issue to the impact on children of “a violent society. If there are serious issues of crime, violence or substance abuse in an area, the schools won’t be exempt from that.

“The problem is that we have a lot of incidents not reported. This means the situation could be far worse than we know it to be,” said Manuel.

South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) national spokespers­on Nomusa Cembi called upon the government to reassess security at schools. Sadtu members were not only experienci­ng violence from pupils, but also from community members who attacked and robbed them at school.

“We need to revisit the issue of having well-trained security guards in schools to ensure the safety of teachers. The community, parents and the department need to work together in promoting discipline and fighting crime,” said Cembi.

KwaZulu-Natal education spokespers­on Muzi Mahlambi said it was aware of the attack on Mkhize and had offered him psychologi­cal assistance.

“We don’t have an answer to the question as to what should be done. We so wish that we had a solution to the issue of crime and the safety of our educators, but we don’t. This starts in homes in our community, and schools will experience the same,” he said.

The Limpopo education department said it had noticed an increase in violent attacks at schools, though it did not have figures.

Spokespers­on Matome Taueatsoal­a said the pupil from Rammupudu Primary School had an altercatio­n with his teacher after the removal of posters. The 17-year-old grade 7 went home but returned at the end of the school day with stones and waited next to the teacher’s car. When the teacher approached, the boy charged at him, but the teacher dodged, Taueatsoal­a said.

The pupil’s friend allegedly handed him a piece of a wooden table that he used to leave a gaping wound on the teacher’s scalp.

The pupil, who had been involved in previous cases of ill-discipline, has been suspended pending a disciplina­ry hearing.

Northern Cape education department spokespers­on Geoffrey van der Merwe said the department had recorded 294 assault cases between 2022 and this year.

Western Cape education spokespers­on Bronagh Hammond said there were 83 cases of assault against teachers last year. In September a grade 12 pupil stabbed a general assistant, who died at the scene, after an argument.

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