Believe it or not, teachers are now being targeted by pupils!

Teachers’ safety in schools came under the spotlight last month when a Grade 8 pupil was captured on a cellphone video clip assaulting his teacher with a chair and a broom.

The pupil swears at his teacher while his peers laugh and urge him on as he is trying to wrestle a school bag out of the teacher’s grip, kicking and throwing a chair and a broom at him.

The teacher walks away.

He doesn’t retaliate and doesn’t say anything to the teenager.

Apart from being suspended over the incident and facing a disciplinary hearing together with 14 other pupils – the attacker now faces an assault charge.

Just days after that incident, a Grade 9 pupil from Sasolburg High School in the Free State shot a teacher.

It was reported that the teenager had been stalking three of his classmates who went to the administrative office and reported this.

When teachers asked the boy why he was following his fellow pupils, the teenager pulled out a gun.

One of the teachers rushed forward to try to reason with him. A scuffle ensued and a shot was fired.

The pupil had shot his teacher in the leg.

Last week, a Grade 7 pupil from Jim Fouche Primary in Brixton, Joburg, punched his teacher.

The teacher had apparently asked the boy to remove a jersey he was wearing that was not part of the school’s uniform.

He punched her and is now facing an assault charge.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said even though such incidents aren’t normally reported, they happened daily – especially in areas where alcohol and drug abuse is rife.

He said the lack of safety left teachers feeling helpless and terrified.

“This leads to absenteeism due to depression,” Maluleke said.

Some teachers resign and leave the profession altogether.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) president Basil Manuel said the abuse that teachers faced from their pupils was three-pronged – it’s verbal abuse, physical abuse and abusive treatment from the children’s parents.

“This problem is vastly underreported. Like so many other societal issues attached to embarrassment, people tend not to want to talk about it,” he said.

Manuel said in the past few weeks alone, he had heard about five incidents in which teachers had been assaulted.

He said in one incident, a Grade 11 pupil had grabbed his teacher’s breast.

“Other pupils intervened, but the teacher didn’t report it,” Manuel said.

When he asked the teacher why she didn’t report the incident to the police and to the school, she said she was embarrassed and didn’t want other people to know about it.

Manuel said teachers were afraid that in coming forward, they’d make the situation worse.

Maluleke said some of the teachers who do come forward and report abuse are threatened – in many instances by parents – and, sometimes, they’re attacked.

“The environment is not conducive for teachers to report these cases. They end up being targeted.”

Professional Educators Union general secretary Ben Machipi said a major contributory factor was the generally lax security in schools.

He said in schools, particularly those that lack resources to hire private security companies and to install alarm systems, teachers and pupils were at greater risk.

“It’s funny because if you go to a police station, which has armed police officers, you’ll find that it’s guarded by a security company. If you go to any (government building), you find it guarded. You go to a school… nothing,” he said.

Author Izabella Little-Gates, founder of the Life Talk Forum, an NGO that deals with parent and teen issues, said the moulding of a child’s behaviour begins at home.

“Parents abdicate disciplining their children and hope that the schools will discipline their children for them,” she said.

“The good news is that there is a lot that can be done to address this problem.

“If every single one of us does our bit in the family, we can make a huge difference. It starts at home,” Little-Gates said.



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