Bloemfontein - Bullying of teachers against other teachers is a serious problem, a study by the University of the Free State's education faculty has found.
“South African teachers are working in toxic environments characterised by disgruntled, overworked and stressed teachers,” school of education studies lecturer Dr Lynette Jacobs said in a statement on Tuesday.
The research is based on the replies of some 1000 teachers who were asked to fill in questionnaires and did so correctly.
Originally some 2700 teachers, at all school levels in urban, township, informal settlements, rural and farm schools, were asked to complete a 43-question survey.
The study found about 90 percent of the respondents were victims of workplace bullying (WPB) by school colleagues and school management during the 12 months before the study.
The bullying acts included direct shunning, having untrue things said about them, verbal abuse, threats and ridicule, insults and teasing, damaging of possessions, as well as physical violence.
UFS school for open learning researcher Professor Corene de Wet said research on WPB in occupations identified teaching as a high-risk job.
“Yet, there is a lack of research on WPB among teachers.”
WPB in the study was identified as colleague behaviour causing isolation, teacher behaviour undermining the professional status of another teacher, behaviour undermining the person, and direct negative behaviour.
The report found nearly 84 percent of teachers suffered from behaviour undermining their professional status, followed by acts to cause isolation (80.3 percent).
Jacobs said WPB seemed to be a very serious problem in South African schools, compared to Croatia, Lithuania, Turkey, Norway, and the United Kingdom.
She said teachers worked in “toxic” environments characterised by high levels of pupil-on-pupil and pupil-on-teacher violence and bullying.
Some school communities were also fraught with moral degradation, racial conflict, violence, lawlessness and economic despair.
“In schools where despair and disrespect prevail, teachers often turn on one another,” she said.
The report concluded teachers were key roleplayers in rescuing the country's failing education system.
It suggested teachers were emotionally destroying one another, rather than working together for the greater good.
The study was recently published in The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa.