Opinion - During the past week, I have read too many articles on the total disrespect shown by school pupils to teachers in and around Durban.
I’m an ex-teacher and know exactly how hard it is in the classroom. Having taught under extreme circumstances on the Cape Flats, I take my hat off to any teacher putting up with the ill-mannered children of today.
When I was a pupil, the power was in the teachers’ chalk. Nowadays the power is in the pupils’ rotten mindset.
In many instances, this mindset is one of criminal intent and destruction, almost like these children are raised with a manual on how to do grievous bodily harm. I agree that much can be attributed to socio-economic issues, but respect can’t be bought over the counter like a bottle of codeine-rich cough syrup.
A vast degree of gangsterism on the Cape Flats sees at least one life lost each day and random shootings on these pupils’ doorsteps has become the norm to them; thus, having respect is last on their list.
However, I think it should be first on the list of things a parent teaches a young child.
My warning to the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department and school principals is to take back ownership of the classroom, or you will literally have blood on your hands and a Cape Flats situation playing itself out in Durban.
Your Western Cape counterpart has already lost the fight; you don’t want to lose it too.
Where did it all go wrong?
It is easy to blame the system, government and apartheid, but I maintain that we have gone wrong in our homes.
Bad parenting skills are to blame. Children have absolutely no respect. When I was at school, you were too scared to laugh loudly in class. Why? Because we had respect, and my mother instilled it at home. My mom’s golden rule was that she would only go to school for PTSA meetings, and not for any of my complaints: Case closed.
And I would get a fat clout in front of the teacher if she was embarrassed by what a teacher told her about me.
About a year ago, I taught a grade 8 class. This group of about 55 pupils aged 13 and 14 held the entire school hostage with their rude behaviour.
I could not teach them: They were rowdy, and basically untouchable and un-teachable.
I failed these youngsters. Because I could not teach them, I resorted to taking them to the sports field to kick and throw balls to expend their energy. If I taught them one full lesson in six months, it was a lot of time spent on actually teaching.
Teachers are trained to educate young minds and not to deal with pupils’ behavioural issues. With parents not instilling morals, values and standards at home, they think whatever they get up to is right.
If you kick pupils out of the class for bad behaviour, you are robbing them of their right to education; you send them to detention, then there is the fear of them getting robbed as they walk home later in the day.
You can’t suspend or expel a pupil because there are too many rules and regulations to be followed, all in favour of the pupil and never the teacher.
Fearing a newspaper article describing me being marched out of the school grounds in handcuffs, I walked into the principal’s office and handed in my notice with immediate effect one Friday afternoon.
The scary part was that some of these boys are built like adult men and are high as kites on dagga and tik, making them violent.
A colleague was hit by a grade 9 pupil and ended up in hospital and later in a clinic for stress-related issues, and I certainly wasn’t going down that road - ever.
I remember a recent case of a top Cape Town school where the principal was fired for being too strict. This man made sure pupils knew that you went to school to learn, and that respect and discipline were enforced.
Someone didn’t take kindly to it and started a campaign, which led to him being fired.
Social media doesn’t make it easy for teachers, either. One bellow at a pupil and you are being recorded. The video goes viral and you are the bad guy.
Most schools’ Codes of Conduct say that pupils aren’t allowed cellphones, but this is another losing battle.
On Monday, the news surfaced that a teacher at an uMlazi school was caught on camera caning a girl. This teacher will probably be fired for her actions.
Child rights campaigner Joan van Niekerk said that “teachers are important role models for children and inflicting violence on their charges is something we should be concerned about”.
I agree with Van Niekerk, but does she educate parents about teaching their children the norms and values of life?
Like the female teacher from Chatsworth who was punched by a pupil when trying to stop a fight, I learnt the hard way not to intervene when pupils fight.
I did it once and ended up lying on the floor. They will not stop fighting even though teachers are present.
The MEC wants to crack the whip on principals for being absent and for poor performance. Mthandeni Dlungwane, did you ever wonder why these professionals perform poorly and why they book off sick?
Teachers are stressed individuals. Rather roll out programmes to them on how to combat stress and rowdy pupils, and concentrate on changing aspects of the Schools Act.
Ill-disciplined pupils must be held accountable.
I also agree with King Goodwill Zwelithini that the country’s education system is failing our youth, but our youth are failing the education system too.
He called on “teachers to prioritise education by being dedicated to their children”. What makes the king think teachers aren’t dedicated? He should speak to the nation’s parents about instilling respect in their children and then we can have the next conversation.
Last Thursday, news broke that, like on the Cape Flats, the scourge of using cough mixture with cool drinks had hit Wentworth. Why would a primary school child want to experience a high?
My advice to parents is to take a step back and teach your children respect. If parents do that, life for teachers will be much easier.
On the one hand, parents will want to fight with a teacher who kicked their child out of class for misbehaving. What kind of example do you set for your child?
Then there is the parent who tells teachers to beat their child. Again, what kind of parent does that? It is your work to deal with your child.
It’s all in a day’s work for a teacher to play the role of educator, shrink, nurse, doctor, policeman; the list goes on.
Pupils will do anything and everything but learn. They are now even stressed about wearing the normal cut grey trousers to school and want to sport a skinny version of the age-old grey school pants. I ask myself: what next?
Most pupils I have encountered are sexually active and teenage pregnancy is rife, but the concept of free condoms for schoolchildren is still too much to grasp. I rest my case.