VIOLENCE against teachers has drawn widespread condemnation from teacher unions and professional bodies.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union chairperson, Tshidiso Ledimo, said incidents that made it to the media were just the tip of the iceberg, that teachers deal with worse and even greater risks.
“We don’t want to believe that schools are danger zones, schools are a place of learning and should be safe for both teachers and pupils. That Vaal school is not the only school with such an incident. The role of parents in the upbringing of a child is important,” he said. Ledimo said the matter raised a big question of how children were raised in society. He said they had been demanding for a long time for psychologists to be deployed in schools.
“We need professional counsellors or psychologists who can be deployed and assist at schools. The department said they don’t have enough money to deploy them at every school,” Ledimo said. The Progressive Principals Association has also expressed concern over the frequency of school stabbings and bullying after a recent school stabbing incident in the Western Cape last week.
Chairperson Rushda O’Shea said more advocacy and violence prevention programmes were needed at schools. “Teaching them coping skills, how to deal with issues, enlightening our kids on how to do problem-solving and how to resolve conflict.”
However, Themba Ndlovu of the South African Council of Educators (SACE) said the lack of statistics relating to attacks on teachers made it difficult to ascertain just how widespread the problem was. “We are going to Parliament next week and we have to be honest and say that there are no statistics to indicate the level of violence faced by teachers.
“Its not because it is not happening but because the incidents are not being reported by the teachers. Teachers are being abused but stay quiet because they see no point in reporting,” Ndlovu said. He said it was important for teachers who are under siege at their schools to report to the authorities.
“They must report to us as SACE so we can take the matter forward,” he said. As incidents of violence in schools continue to make headlines, the Education for Social Justice Foundation said it will now escalate its quest for cameras to be installed in schools to the office of the president.
Last year the foundation made submissions to the Department of Basic Education, saying that installation of cameras in schools would help minimise school violence and ensure the safety of pupils and teachers. The foundation’s chairperson, Hendrick Makaneta, said they were escalating the request to the office of the president as the Basic Education Department had been “dragging its feet” on the issue.
“We strongly believe that the installation of cameras across all the schools in the country will drastically reduce the high level of violence in schools. “We also believe that this will go further to improve learning and teaching in schools and address matters of bullying and violence among pupils. The issues for safety is a cause for great concern, we believe that something drastic must be done to ensure that at the end of the day our pupils must feel safe in the school,” he said.
Makaneta believes that cameras will ensure the safety and discipline of pupils even in the absence of the teachers. However, the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) said while incidents of violence to teachers and pupils in schools was worrying, schools should not and must not be labelled “danger zones”.
Cosas’s Nkhobo Khomongoe said the organisation had long called on the department to carry out workshops to equip both pupils and teachers on how to resolve issues that might lead to such incidents. “The same teachers that say schools are danger zones are the same teachers who practice corporal punishment as a method of disciplining pupils,” Khomongoe said.
Gauteng department of education spokesperson Steve Mabona said if a pupil was expelled permanently from a school, they are placed at another school and instructed to attend diversion programmes too, if the expulsion is suspended for 12 months. However, teachers said that is taking a problem from one classroom to another.
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