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Teachers are running a gauntlet of physical and verbal attacks by out-of-control pupils - and the Western Cape is seen as the “worst” of all the provinces.
This comes as the country deals with the fallout from the latest spate of attacks directed at teachers which in recent weeks has seen:
- A 14-year-old Grade 8 pupil at Jim Fouche Primary School in Joburg punch a female teacher in the face after she asked him to remove his jersey, which was not part of the school uniform.
- A Grade 8 pupil at Glenvista High School in Joburg assault a teacher with a broom and the attack was filmed by other pupils and then put online.
- A Sasolburg High School teacher was shot in the leg by a Grade 9 pupil.
And earlier this year Cape Town teacher Sharidene Meyer, 26, survived an attempt by a pupil in her Grade 8 history class at Crestway High School to set her hair on fire using a lighter.
Mugwena Maluleke, general secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), said: “Ill-discipline is pervasive, but it’s worst in the Western Cape. This is where we receive the most complaints from our members. Pupils threaten, and verbally and physically abuse teachers.”
And teacher unions believe the reported attacks are just the tip of the iceberg.
Basil Manuel, president of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA (Naptosa), says most teachers are too embarrassed to report the attacks.
“If one child gets away with it, another thinks ‘why not give it a try?’ You become a little hero in your group because you challenged authority.”
Maluleke added: “The incidents we know of where teachers have been attacked are just a drop in the ocean. There are so many that go unreported because of the stigma.
Not only are our members attacked by pupils, but they are threatened and abused by parents and the community when they try to reprimand pupils for bad behaviour.”
However, Western Cape Department of Education spokeswoman Bronagh Casey says pupil violence against teachers is not confined to this province, and where necessary the province has acted against violent troublemakers. She said the department approved the expulsion of between five to eight pupils a year for assaulting teachers.
- In 2011, schools recommended the expulsion of 16 pupils for various offences, of which 10 involved physical assaults. The department approved expulsion in seven cases. The other six cases involved verbal abuse or threatening behaviour. The department approved expulsion in two of these cases.
- Last year, schools recommended the expulsion of 15 pupils in similar cases. Twelve pupils were guilty of physical assault. The department approved expulsion in five cases. The department approved expulsion in two of the three other cases that involved verbal abuse or threatening behaviour.
- From January to June this year, 10 referrals for offences of alleged assault or threats of assault against teachers or staff were received. Four of these were expelled.
Casey said: “The (department) does support teachers who have been affected by pupil violence.”
Gauteng MEC for Education Barbara Creecy this week said she was seeking legal advice on expelling violent children.
Meanwhile, Mushtaq Parker, an attorney from Cape Town who has represented three teachers who have sued the Department of Education for damages, says these attacks “destroy” teachers. “They are further traumatised when they receive no support from their superiors and the department.”
Parker is still haunted by the case of Cape Town Grade 8 teacher Tania Jacobs. In September 2001, she discovered a hand-drawn death certificate bearing her name in the journal of a 13-year-old pupil at Rhodes High School. He would later bludgeon the young teacher a dozen times with a hammer, cracking her skull.
“It took us 10 years to get a verdict. The viciousness with which the department fought her was astounding,” Parker said. - Saturday Argus