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Teachers gone rogue: Increase in corporal punishment and sexual abuse

Picture: Zanele Zulu.

Picture: Zanele Zulu.

Published Nov 28, 2020


It would appear that educators have dusted off their canes and are putting them to use.

The SA Council of Educators (Sace) said it recorded an increase in the number of corporal punishment cases and sexual abuse of pupils during the 2019/20 financial year.

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The spike is blamed on the assault of colleagues within the school environment, submission of fraudulent qualifications and other forms of unprofessional conduct by teachers.

The council said sexual misconduct cases increased by 43% and described this as quite concerning.

In the annual report, chief executive officer Mapula Mokgalane said the financial year under review had been inundated with an increase in cases of professional misconduct by teachers.

"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 performed," Mokgalane said.

She also said teachers have used bad language on each other, and in some cases racial remarks which are unacceptable in a diverse society such as South Africa.

The report showed that the council finalised 456 misconduct cases, which included 284 cases reported in 2019/20 and 172 others from previous years.

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

"The highest instances of misconduct [60 % (248)] are found in the three provinces, Gauteng, KZN and Western Cape," the report said, adding that the rest of the provinces accounted for 40 %, which translated to 166 cases.

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

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Sace said the top categories of cases of professional and unethical misconduct were corporal punishment and assault, which totalled 157.

There were a total of 92 cases related to sexual misconduct, rape, indecent assault, sexual assault and sexual harassment, as well as 66 cases 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.

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"In 2019/2020, a total of 17 teachers were entered into such a register after council had removed them from the register of fit-to-practise educators."

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

Of the 103 found gulity, 44 were for assault and corporal punishent, 17 sexual abuse and 42 other misconduct.

A total of 26 teachers were banned indefinitely from teaching, three were banned for a specified period and 74 others were slapped with suspension from the register with fines.

However, the council said there was a challenge of the lack of co-operation by parents.

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

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

But, this did not mean the culprits were let off the hook.

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

Sace chairman 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 in the process of appointing and capacitating panellists to process cases.

"This will bolster the capacity of the legal and ethics division to conduct more cases."

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