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Pupil abuse drives teacher out of school

The Star
As South Africa will tomorrow commemorate a day that put the spotlight on education during apartheid, the profession is on the brink of losing one teacher due to abuse by pupils.

* Elizabeth, a Grade 9 teacher in Katlehong in Ekurhuleni, is thinking of changing careers after her pupils insulted her.

The 28-year-old said the incident happened on WhatsApp when her pupils added her to a class group chat.

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WHAT WILL CHANGE THEM? This former Glenvista High pupil was expelled from school after he was recorded on video attacking his teacher with a broom. Assaults are reported more frequently in schools, traumatising staff.WHAT WILL CHANGE THEM? This former Glenvista High pupil was expelled from school after he was recorded on video attacking his teacher with a broom. Assaults are reported more frequently in schools, traumatising staff.

She said the incident stemmed from the fact that the pupils did not like how she handled them during school hours and that she was very strict.

“I gave my numbers to learners in my class and I got an invite on WhatsApp last year around August.

“I saw the invitation at midnight on that day. When I opened it the following day I saw the insulting messages from my learners. They called me a bitch, slut, a witch and that they were not scared of me,” she said.

Elizabeth is not the only teacher who has suffered abuse at the hands of her pupils. The Gauteng Education Department recently released a report of cases of pupils assaulting teachers.

Although the abuse that Elizabeth suffered from her pupils was not physical, it affected her so much that she has lost her passion for teaching.

The department said 10 cases of assault were reported in 2014, while 26 were reported in 2015 and 21 last year. The report confirmed that Joburg East, where Elizabeth is working, had the highest number of assault cases, with five in 2015 and four last year.

According to the department, pupils found guilty of misconduct are rehabilitated, and can be reinstated after successful completion of a diversion programme. In 2015, of 26 pupils facing serious misconduct, 14 were expelled, while 12 were reinstated.

About her abuse, Elizabeth said: “I was shocked and couldn’t believe that I was insulted by people who I care for.

“I forwarded the case to my principal but I never liked the way he dealt with it. He just called parents to apologise to me and I felt the apology was not enough.

“I can’t stand in front of children who called me slut, bitch and witch and pretend things are right. At least they should have suspended those learners.”

“I am one of the teachers who don’t like bad attitudes in my class and I believe there must be a change to everyone close to me. So those learners hate me for that,” she said.

She told The Star these pupils were old enough to have completed matric last year but were struggling in Grade 9.

“And some of these boys are dagga addicts, while girls are smoking cigarettes. One of the reasons they behave so wild is because there is no more corporal punishment at schools. And maybe some look at my slim body and feel we are the same age so who am I to tell them what to do. Sometimes they were not even listening to my lessons,” Elizabeth said.

Now Elizabeth wishes she could have another qualification so she could apply for another job.

A deputy principal at the school believes social factors and the economy also affect pupils’ bad behaviour.

“We know others were influenced by dagga, while others became uncontrollable because of age. And others use Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi as the bogeyman.

“Every time teachers reprimand learners, parents would threaten to report them to Lesufi,” she said.

Another school in the area reported that a pupil attacked a teacher and poured a bucket of water over the teacher last year after being reprimanded for bad behaviour.

A teacher in another high school in Ekurhuleni said it had became fashionable for pupils to insult teachers at her school.

“If they also do that to principal then who I am to stop them? They always insult us and this is what they do and no one can change them,” she said.

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