The good and the bad about educators revealed

Brilliant teachers are being buried by the bad ones, says head of Parents for Equal Education. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

Brilliant teachers are being buried by the bad ones, says head of Parents for Equal Education. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 4, 2024


Cape Town - Removing the bad apples from the good ones has resulted in at least 31 educators being removed from the SA Council of Educators’ roll indefinitely.

A total of 734 cases were received and investigated, including 254 misconduct cases.

Education watchdogs, together with trade unions, however, said despite the explicit number of educators finding themselves on the wrong side, they also have to deal with ill-disciplined children, overcrowding of classrooms and a lack of resources, and they are not equipped or trained to deal with the current situation.

Out of 73 018 registered teachers, 61 had criminal records. The SACE reports showed 21 were for theft, 16 for traffic offences, six for assault, one for public indecency and two for domestic violence, among others.

The SACE said they were gravely concerned by the assault of learners, sexual misconduct and assault of colleagues and added the trends were worrying and that corporal punishment of learners still took place.

In the totals observed for the period 2022/2023, ending November 2023, nationally, the figures revealed the following: absenteeism – 91, abuse of learners (bullying and humiliation, defamation of character and disrespect, bribery, assault of learners and incitement) – 58, assault of a colleague or learner – 212, corruption related to the post and victimisation of colleagues – 4, discrimination and victimisation of a colleague – 12, fraud (insubordination and examination fraud) – 36, financial mismanagement and maladministration – 48, gross negligence and employment of unqualified/unregistered educators – 19, incitement of learners and parents against the principal and bribery and assault – 11, sexual harassment of a learner (failure to report rape) – 15.

Shockingly, the SACE revealed that by the end of the calender year, they’d received numerous cases of the highest form of misconduct registered against educators, which was the assault of learners, followed by sexual abuse and assault of a colleague.

Nationally, they finalised 254 investigations into new cases and 540 investigations into old or rolled-over cases. Some files were closed for lack of substantive evidence, and a total of 31 educators have been removed from the roll indefinitely. A total of 77 educators were found guilty, and their names were removed from the register, but the removal was suspended for a certain period and resulted in different fines and/or reprimands.

In the Western Cape, one male educator was charged and investigated for sexual harassment of a learner and was removed from the register while another was charged with rape, absenteeism, fraud regarding examinations and falsifying marks and the assault of learners.

Professor Kobus Maree of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Pretoria (UP) told Weekend Argus that the effects of misconduct would take its toll on learners.

“Similar to others, I deeply regret that a small minority of teachers (or, for that matter, any other health-care- and health-care-related professionals) engage in such acts. Unfortunately, many learners are left with enduring scars; some lack access to psychological services.

“Even a single instance of bullying or harassment is one too many.

“In an ideal world, there would be no occurrence of such incidents, certainly not at the frequency we unfortunately observe.

“Truth be told, people sometimes disappoint us grievously. Let's provide some perspective. When calculated as percentages of the total number of teachers employed and learners at schools nationally, we are dealing with a very low percentage of teachers involved.

“The utmost importance lies in ensuring that each case of learner abuse is addressed expeditiously, allowing the law to take its course,” said Maree.

Kerry J Mauchline, of the Western Cape Education Department, said they investigated all cases presented to them.

“The SACE has also recognised previously that there may be more cases reported in Western Cape because a culture of reporting professional misconduct is higher in the province.”

There is also a high percentage of “awareness” around the illegality of certain things such as corporal punishment, fraud and corruption in the province.

“For example, we have very strict policies and protocols in place which ensures that any educator or staff member who becomes aware of an incident of corporal punishment, or what we refer to as assault of a learner, has to report the matter to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

“All educators are trained in our ‘Abuse no more protocol’ which outlines exactly what the processes are in this regard.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach with regards to assault, fraud and corruption, and all such allegations are regarded in a serious light and acted upon.

“With regards to a case of falsifying of marks, the teacher was dismissed on May 24, 2022, from the employment of the WCED. She was charged with misconduct and committing fraud in respect of examination promotion reports at a primary school.

“She pleaded guilty to the charge. The matter was reported to the SACE on June 22, 2022,” said Mauchline.

Vanessa Le Roux, of Parents for Equal Education, said it was a case of a few rotten apples spoiling the barrel.

“A lot of teachers have to deal with socio-economic situations in the classrooms, while many cases are swept under the rug.

“I am shocked that this is the only amount of stats being handed over to the SACE because there are so many great teachers in our schools and especially teaching under the conditions they are working, with little to no resources and overcrowding.

“However, those brilliant teachers are almost being buried by these others, like they are a faction on their own.

“It is usually led by a principal with very poor behaviour to almost criminal conduct.

“There is so much misconduct, but you would be surprised how this type of stuff is being swept under the rug,” said Le Roux.

Sibongile Kwazi, of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), said the figures need to be seen in context because assault could mean a teacher had disciplined a child using corporal punishment in worrying conditions of overcrowding and that some educators were not educated enough on what to do in those circumstances. She said Sadtu does not condone misconduct.

“We need to unpack what we mean by assault of learners. Another person may think a learner was attacked and even hospitalised, possibly, when we are talking about assault of learners. It could mean pushing of a learner, pinching of a learner, issuing corporal punishment, which can be one lash or more,” she said.

“People must not have this vision that teachers were fighting with learners. One of the reasons why some teachers may resort to corporal punishment is the ill-discipline of learners.

“If teachers cannot deal with problem learners, they find themselves on the other side of the law, inflicting corporal punishment.

“We advocate against the use of corporal punishment. Younger teachers, during their training at higher education, are not trained to work in overcrowded classrooms. They face disciplinary challenges when they walk into the real world.

“Sexual harassment – we are against this as the SACE. We also believe such perverts do not have a place in our schools.

“We applaud that action be taken before any teacher is registered, which did not happen in the past. We are aware this was not a practice in the past, and we may be sitting with such teachers.

“The issue of absenteeism – we understand every moment there must be a teacher in the classroom, this leaves other teachers overburdened.

“Falsifying marks, it not only happens at schools. If people can lie about their qualifications, teachers can also lie about marking their work,” she concluded.