Education experts raise alarm over teacher misconduct cases

Corporal punishment tops list as experts raise alarm over teacher misconduct cases.

Corporal punishment tops list as experts raise alarm over teacher misconduct cases.

Published Mar 25, 2024


Education experts, the national association of school governing bodies and a teachers’ union have called for the Department of Education to have better monitoring and policies in place to put a stop to teacher misconduct cases.

This comes after a recent round-table discussion by the South African Council for Educators (SACE) regarding an increase in the number of reported misconduct cases against teachers.

SACE CEO Ella Makgalane said: “Top of the list is corporal punishment, and second are sexual misconduct cases.”

Makgalane said SACE was developing programmes in order for educators to understand the implications of teacher misconduct.

“Teachers should not retaliate when struck by pupils, but rather follow correct protocol to address the situation.

“We are doing our part as we don’t want to see teachers being dismissed due to misconduct.”

Matakanye Matakanya, the general secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), said the Department of Education needed to have methods to monitor teacher misconduct.

“Corporal punishment and sexual misconduct are against the law, but the department needs to have a policy to monitor these situations as we can’t allow that to happen in an environment for learning.”

Matakanya added that the NASGB did not have the authority to draw up a policy for the sector. “We are calling on the department to draw up a policy for monitoring and we will do our utmost to assist.

“We also feel that a code of ethics must be enforced in schools as we should not be seeing pupils attacking teachers. But corporal punishment must be abolished.”

Professor Labby Ramrathan, from the University of KwaZuluNatal’s School of Education, said there may not be an increase in teacher misconduct cases but rather that more reporting of misconduct was taking place.

“Pupils and parents have been empowered with their rights and we are seeing more reporting of teacher misconduct.

“However, this situation has always been there. It hasn’t stopped even with the new bill criminalising corporal punishment.”

Ramrathan added that the act of a teacher holding a cane was an act of corporal punishment.

“The only way we can address the situation is with better monitoring from the department to ensure that corporal punishment doesn’t take place and to ensure that appropriate action is taken for misconduct where necessary.”

Professor Michael le Cordeur, vice-dean for teaching and learning in the education department at Stellenbosch University, said the teaching profession had many challenges, resulting in more teachers committing acts of misconduct.

“The school environment is no longer conducive to positive teaching. Learners joining gangs bring that violent element to class.”

National Teachers Union (Natu) president Sibusiso Malinga said corporal punishment and sexual misconduct were not acceptable.

“We do, however, ask the department for guidelines for how learners should be disciplined as we can’t allow situations where learner behaviour is affecting learning at schools.”

Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said they had introduced the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill to stop corporal punishment.

“We are working with SACE to ensure that corporal punishment ends and teachers that are found to be involved in sexual misconduct can also face the appropriate action.

“This involves not only disciplinary action but also reporting it to the police as a criminal matter,” he said.

The Mercury