School bullying is a problem countrywide, but when the victim is a teacher, it would seem as though there is little recourse or support.
A Ocean View teacher, 35, was recently assaulted by a Grade 9 learner after she and her friends continued to gang up on the woman.
The Western Cape Education Department revealed that 23 staff members were assaulted by learners in the first quarter of this year.
WCED spokesperson Millicent Merton said two of the cases reported involved a cleaner and a security guard.
The Ocean View teacher told the Weekend Argus: “On April 13, I fell victim to a brutal assault by a learner, while other learners played their part in the assault. This is something that could have been prevented, if the school acted on the previous complaints that I made, with regards to the discipline, and how it became unbearable, before the physical assault, there was humiliating verbal assault on my person.
“After the incident, I received absolutely no support from the school. Instead, I was reported to the Department of Labour. I am now awaiting the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, and the police investigation, as I have opened a criminal case, and the hearing of the Labour Department,” she said.
The teacher said it was a daily struggle to face those very children who allegedly abused her.
“I am just trying to deal with it,” she said, adding that the incident had left her emotionally scarred.
Education activist Vanessa le Roux said the teacher had suffered humiliation at the hands of the learners.
“They made songs about her physical appearance. They had the balls to come up to her face and scream at her, on many occasions, and although she reported it to the principal, he did absolutely nothing.
“The behaviour of children escalates, this teacher who is small in stature fell victim to the most brutal attack. The learner threw stones at her and thereafter went into the classroom where she was physically attacked, while fellow learners held her down,” she said.
Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said a case of assault was opened and it was still under investigation.
Merton explained that they give support to teachers who have been attacked.
“Psycho-social support and wellness has been identified as a priority area for the Western Cape Education Department.
“The WCED has an Employee Health and Wellness Programme in place for all its employees. The service provides professional support for various issues, including family challenges, financial advice, relationships, medical advice, and work-related challenges.
“Employees can contact the EWHP on a toll-free number: 0800 111 011 to have a confidential conversation with one of their counsellors who will provide counselling support,” she said.
Merton added that the department has a dedicated website with information about the programme and the services it offers.
“The most prevalent issues are, trauma; personal relationships (conflict in primary intimate relationships with partners/spouses); work related relationships and conflict; and other issues.
“Furthermore, the WCED issued a circular in January regarding the process which is to be followed in instances of violence against employees at schools.
“When learners are involved in an incident of assault, the school’s governing body should implement or enforce the necessary disciplinary sanctions against the learner according to the school’s code of conduct.
“Our district psycho-social support teams provide training and workshops within our schools to help teachers deal with stressful classroom situations and manage problem behaviour.
“Requests for support are made by schools through the department’s support pathway. Online resources are also available to provide guidance and tips for teachers to use in the classroom.
“Sessions on ‘trauma-informed schools’ and emotional first aid training also reached thousands of teachers across the province.
“Every district has a positive behaviour support programme which capacitate our teachers in dealing with disruptive behaviour in the classroom.
“The WCED liaises within Safe Schools to supplement the services from department-employed psychologists and social workers by working with the Department of Health, Department of Social Development, and NGOs (such as CASE in Hanover Park and Manenberg),” she said.
Merton said high level support is provided by psychologists or social workers in circuits and districts.
“This may include individual or group counselling. At this level, the psycho-social support staff may also refer to the Department of Health, for example, psychiatric support or to the Department of Social Development in case of child abuse or neglect,” Merton said.