KZN teachers among worst offenders

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Nov 28, 2020

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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal ranks among the worst provinces for misconduct among teachers, the South African Council of Educators (SACE) has said, adding that it had recorded a 43% increase in sexual misconduct cases among teachers.

The numbers of corporal punishment cases, assault of colleagues within the school environment, submission of fraudulent qualifications and other unprofessional conduct by teachers were revealed in the 2019/20 annual report of the council recently tabled in Parliament.

Chief executive officer Mapula Mokgalane said the council had been inundated with an increase in cases of professional misconduct by teachers in the financial year under review.

"The most prominent cases which have raised eyebrows in the community are those pertaining to sexual misconduct and corporal punishment. There are also cases pertaining to negligence, such as when an educator locks a child in a locker-room overnight as some form of punishment for whatever misdeed was performed," Mokgalane said.

Teachers also used bad language to each other, and some racial remarks were made.

The report showed that the council finalised 456 misconduct cases: 284 cases were reported in 2019/20 and 172 from previous years.

The Western Cape registered the highest number of cases at 96, followed by Gauteng with 92 and KwaZulu-Natal with 61, representing 60% of cases.

The Eastern Cape recorded 32, Free State 32, Limpopo 29, North West 29, Mpumalanga 23 and the Northern Cape 21.

SACE said the top three categories of professional and unethical misconduct were corporal punishment and assault at 157.

There were 92 cases related to sexual misconduct, rape, indecent assault, sexual assault and sexual harassment, and 66 involving verbal abuse, victimisation, harassment, defamation and others.

"Educators that are found guilty of sexual misconduct are sent to the Department of Social Development to be entered into the register of persons who are unfit to work with children.

"In 2019/2020, 17 teachers were entered into such a register after the council had removed them from the register of (persons) fit to practice as educators."

The council said 103 teachers were found guilty, one was given a warning, 11 were not found guilty, and 20 had cases withdrawn due to a lack of co-operation from witnesses.

Of the 103 found guilty, 44 were for assault and corporal punishment, 17 for sexual abuse, and 42 for misconduct.

A total of 26 teachers were banned indefinitely from teaching, three were banned for a specified period, and 74 were suspended from the register and fined.

SACE said there had been an increased level of reporting from provincial Departments of Education in the 2019/20 financial year.

However, there had been a lack of co-operation by parents.

"Many parents continue to refuse the council access to their children to testify in disciplinary hearings or even to participate in investigations by the council.

"This forces the council to temporarily close files, and these end up forming roll-overs for the council," the report said.

This did not mean the culprits were let off the hook.

"These files are kept open with the hope that these parents will someday have a change of heart and allow SACE to speak to their children and eventually finalise the complaints."

SACE chairperson Mabutho Cele said teacher misconduct case management processes would be prioritised in the new financial year after some targets were not met.

The council said it was appointing and capacitating panellists to “bolster the capacity of the legal and ethics division to conduct more cases”.

The Independent on Saturday

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