Cape Town - Thirty attacks on Western Cape teachers by pupils, parents and residents have been reported to the provincial education department this year, but teacher unions believe the number of unreported cases is much higher.
In 23 of the 29 matters reported between January and last month, pupils were the perpetrators in 14 assault cases, six of verbal abuse, two sexual abuse cases and one in which a weapon was used to threaten a teacher.
Over the same period, there were three cases where parents were accused of verbally abusing teachers, one case of a resident verbally abusing a teacher and, in two cases, residents robbed teachers.
Union leaders told the Cape Argus they were “extremely concerned” about the safety of their members, and were encouraging teachers to report cases to the police.
No pupils have been expelled this year for attacks against teachers.
In the 30th incident, reported this month, a Cloetesville teacher was beaten up and robbed in his classroom following a disagreement with a Grade 8 pupil.
Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the pupil reportedly ran home after the disagreement and fetched his father and another adult.
“They reportedly attacked the teacher in his classroom leaving his face bruised and his eye blue. After the alleged attack, they reportedly left his classroom, allegedly taking an amount of R1 750 from the educator’s desk.”
She said the school reported the matter to the police.
“Disciplinary action will be taken against the pupil, however he has not returned to school since the incident.
The teacher, who is severely traumatised, is receiving counselling from the district psychologist.”
Last month, a Kraaifontein principal was assaulted at his school, allegedly by two brothers.
Shelver said following a disciplinary hearing, the expulsion of both pupils was recommended to the head of education.
She said she could not comment further because there were pending court cases from both parties.
The principal had been “booked off” until next month.
Jonavon Rustin, provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, said many teachers who had reported attacks felt vulnerable because school governing bodies and the department did not take decisive action against the pupils involved.
“The department as the employer has the responsibility to protect its employees. Our teachers are under siege in their own classrooms. But parents also have to take responsibility. Teaching respect starts in the home.”
Moses Standaar, provincial chairman of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), shared Rustin’s sentiments and said an Educator Rights Symposium, organised by Naptosa Western Cape, would be held later this month.
Teachers’ rights when assaulted by pupils would be one of the topics of discussion.
Morne Janson, provincial secretary of the SA Teachers’ Union, said many teachers did not report cases of assault for a number of reasons.
He said this could be because the teacher may consider the child’s personal circumstances and background. In other cases, they believed there would be little or no consequences for the child.
Janson said the union was aware of a case where a teacher who had been attacked and another teacher who came to support him, had asked the district official to provide them with counselling. He said although counselling was provided for pupils, teachers had to pay for a private provider.
Shelver said the department viewed cases of assault on teachers “in an extremely serious light” and would give such teachers its full support.
“Schools have to follow due process in prosecuting these cases. Those found guilty can expect dire consequences if the school applies due process in terms of their codes of conduct.
“Specialists in school governance and management are always available to advise schools on due process, as required.”
She said that after an incident had taken place, the principal should refer the teacher to the Employee Wellness Programme.
“If he fails to do so, the service can be accessed by contacting the 24-hour toll-free line on 0800 111 011.”