"The truth about learner cruelty against teachers at schools is disturbing, reprehensible and thoroughly unacceptable." File photo
The truth about learner cruelty against teachers at schools is disturbing, reprehensible and thoroughly unacceptable. But reporting the ongoing disrespect is actually fuelling the terror, because the social media does its viral thing.

I do not believe the focus should be on what should be done to punish learners who defy, assault and even murder teachers. We should look at the narrative that led to this social aberration.

Not long ago a teacher was battered with a hammer by a learner. The sad incident was played out during prolonged court action and eventually resolved. The teacher wasn’t suddenly “un-traumatised”. The learner didn’t suddenly begin preaching respect for the profession. But the law had taken its course, and all parties had had their day in court, and the situation had been dealt with according to human rights laws and the Constitution. We could return to normalcy.

I started my teaching career in 1959. In those days we enjoyed the respect of society. Since then I have seen the decline of respect for teachers, priests, nuns, doctors, midwives, policemen, postmen - indeed, all persons seen to be performing public service. These days, if we have an issue with a train or bus, we merely torch it.

Let us try to isolate the reasons for the decline in morality. I recall with shudders the photograph of a corpulent teacher on a grass knoll sporting a sheet of cardboard with a hole cut in the centre and the mantra scrawled beneath: Ek is gatvol. Tied to this implosion of the teacher’s own self-respect was the unionisation of the profession in terms of the revolution. But I still maintain that one should retain the essential, if outdated, pledge that professional service takes precedence over political agenda. The nurse administering dialysis cannot stop midway in answer to a union’s call for action.

Part of the answer lies in the home. School is a place of learning, not conflict. Parents must get on board. In my day, a hiding at school meant another one at home. It’s a tough and long haul to separating cause and effect. Yet we still buy Mercedes-Benz cars despite World War II. Connect the dots.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media

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