“It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine; that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”
We begin today’s editorial with these words from Madiba to remind teachers of the responsibility they carry in shaping not only the futures of their learners but of this country.
That is why the South African Council for Educators’ (Sace) stats in the first quarter of the 2022-23 financial year on errant teachers paints a worrying picture that our children are at times at risk from the very same people we entrust with their futures.
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to be called to school or informed by the child victims themselves that they were either sexually or physically assaulted by a teacher at school.
Readers recall the many stories our news pages carried about pupils having been impregnated by their teachers or badly beaten to a point that their arm was broken.
But when Sace observed an influx of complaints against teachers; the majority of them being assault of pupils, followed by sexual misconduct, then the entire society cannot turn a blind eye to these incidents.
Among the complaints Sace received, 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.
The alarming figures mean whatever measures the Sace has put in place, something remains missing.
While Sace is to be commended for the work their officials are putting in reining in rogue teachers, much more still needs to be done.
Only responding after the damage has been done does very little for the aggrieved parents and the child who has to live with the physical and emotional scars for the rest of their lives.
For many of them school is a safe haven to escape the ills they witness daily either at home or in their communities. When a teacher violates them, they are essentially destroying their careers even before they began.
Our society has failed them at home, we cannot afford instances where they feel chased away from school.
The urgency of acting and preventing such incidents cannot be overstated.