Pupils at Sans Souci protest in support of the teacher who was caught on camera slapping a pupil. Picture: Supplied by WCED

Cape Town -  The South African Teacher’s Union (SAOU) on Monday threw its weight behind a San Souci High School teacher caught slapping a pupil in a video that has gone viral. 

The union in a statement said it is aware of the current debate and concomitant legal issues surrounding the incident that took place between the pupil and a teacher at the Cape Town high school.

While the teacher concerned is a member of the SAOU, the union said, she is employed by the school’s Governing Body (GB) and as such, the immediate processes of enquiry into the case and its resolution, fall within the auspices of the governing body.

In a video doing the rounds on social media, it shows the teacher engaged in an argument with the pupil. The teacher can be heard admonishing the girl for having her cellphone at school in contravention of the school's code of conduct.

In the clip, which is about one-and-a-half minutes long, the rest of the class looks on as the pupil repeatedly backchats the teacher who appears to grow more and more agitated.

During the incident, which reportedly happened last week Tuesday, the girl accuses the teacher of swearing at her and this appears to escalate their confrontation.

When the teacher confiscates the pupil's cellphone the girl pushes past her to take to phone from the teacher's table. At this point, the teacher becomes visibly overwrought and slaps the girl, to the horror of her classmates.

According to recent reports, the mother of the pupil in the video, and the teacher have both laid assault charges against each other.

The SAOU said it wishes to emphasise that they support their member and her labour rights.

"However, should the matter require that the teacher needs representation in either a disciplinary or criminal process the SAOU will undertake that representation if permitted to do so. A legal team has already been appointed in this regard," according to a statement issued.

"In the meantime, the SAOU urges all concerned to see the incident in context and to avoid exacerbating the situation by sensationalising “the story” – this can only impact negatively on both the learners and education in general."