Assault of pupils, sexual misconduct are leading complaints against teachers

Published Oct 3, 2023


Teacher regulatory body, the South African Council of Educators (Sace) said it has observed an influx of complaints against teachers in the first quarter of the 2022-23 financial year, with the majority being assault of pupils, followed by sexual misconduct.

This emerged in the entity’s annual report tabled in Parliament where Sace reported that it received a total of 734 cases and investigated 254 misconduct complaints against educators.

The number dropped from the 764 cases Sace received of the breach of the code of professional ethics by educators in the prior year.

CEO Mapula Ella Mokgalane said although Sace received fewer cases than in 2021-22, the council observed with concern the nature of the cases.

“The majority of them were for the assault of learners followed by sexual misconduct and a few for the assault of colleagues.

These trends are worrying and the question to be asked is why there is still so much physical abuse, be it that of learners and or colleagues,” Mokgalane said.

A breakdown of the complaints showed that 212 involved assault of a colleague or learner, followed by 163 for sexual harassment of a learner, 91 for absenteeism, 58 for abuse of learners, 48 for financial mismanagement and maladministration and 36 for fraud.

“Assault of learners still stood out among all other forms of misconduct,” she said.

“In the new school calendar year, between January and March 2023, (the) council had more assault of colleagues by colleagues (complaints), victimisation and humiliation of colleagues by colleagues, which is a worrying trend.”

Mokgalane said Sace will in the future conduct advocacy with a view to restore professionalism within the teaching profession.

According to Mokgalane, Sace conducted and finalised 254 investigations on new cases and 540 investigations on old or rolled-over cases with some files closed for lack of substantive evidence.

She said many resulted in charges being laid against accused educators.

“Though the total number of cases investigated may have been newly reported cases and some on old or rolled-over cases, there is more than one teacher in some files.

“This means that more than one teacher may be jointly investigated or even charged for the same misconduct.”

Mokgalane also said the council finalised a total of 13 new hearings and 109 hearings from the previous financial years.

“A total of 31 educators have been removed from the roll indefinitely.

“This implies such a teacher has no reasonable prospect of practising the teaching of the children as they shall have lost their licence to teach indefinitely.”

“Some educators whose names were removed from the register end up with their names being entered into the register of persons declared unfit to work with children,” Mokgalane explained.

“This register is held by the Department of Social Development.

These are educators who would have committed serious offences, including sexual misconduct – rape, impregnating a learner and sexual relations with learners broadly, fraud, and severe assault of learners,” she said.

Mokgalane said two educators were removed from the register for a certain period that ranged from five years or more with or without conditions.

There were 77 educators found guilty and whose names were removed from the register, but the removal was suspended for a certain period with different fines and or reprimands.

“In other instances, removals from the register may be suspended and replaced with a fine as shall have been determined by the Council or a fine which equals one month’s salary and which fine is payable to the council within 12 months in line with Section 5 of the Sace Act.”

Mokgalane said the council has workshopped many educators on the code of professional ethics and the dangers associated with corporal punishment.

“However, cases of corporal punishment seem to be on the rise instead of a decline. Educators have made a huge demand to be workshopped on the alternatives to corporal punishment. Educators have highlighted issues of ill-discipline in schools and that they have no other ways to deal with ill-disciplined learners,” she said.

Cape Times