Teacher deserves a tighter klap: school's parents
Back-slap teacher at The Ridge in Joburg demoted and forced to apologise after incident
The board of the country's most expensive boys' preparatory school has demoted a deputy headmaster who admitted hitting a Grade 6 pupil on the back.
But the sanctions meted out to Chris Verster have angered parents who described it as “a slap on the wrist”.
Verster’s post as deputy head for operational matters and discipline at The Ridge School in Johannesburg was downgraded to that of senior master, which means that he will no longer be part of the school’s executive.
Verster, who was also slapped with a final written warning, returned to school on Wednesday after being placed on precautionary suspension on May 30.
He also yesterday apologised for his actions to the pupil and his parents, as well as to fellow teachers and grade six and seven pupils.
The boy is said to have burst into tears after the incident which took place during Child Protection Week recently.
“There’s no real punishment imposed on the perpetrator of the incident. The teacher has admitted guilt for hitting a child but he will continue teaching the boys and coaching sport so what's changed,” one parent said.Another parent said: “I find it disheartening, demoralising and incredibly sad that a school of The Ridge’s reputation would reinstate a teacher who has slapped a child. It’s a criminal offence; an assault on a child is unacceptable to me.
“It's horrific that they have reinstated him and I believe other parents feel the same way.”
In a letter to parents that was signed by both the chairman of the board, James Clucas, and the school’s principal, Richard Stanley, the school said that it had appointed an independent senior counsel “to consider a charge” against Verster”.
“Mr Verster pleaded guilty to the charge and explained that although he had hit the learner, it was not intentional. The Board regards the nature of the misconduct as a very serious offence.”According to the statement, Verster has been stripped of his responsibilities of overseeing pupil affairs and discipline at the school.
“It is important to note that Mr Verster has showed genuine remorse for his conduct, and has expressed his desire and commitment to rebuilding the trust and support of the entire school community. In order to allow him to do that, the school will provide him with ongoing coaching.”Stanley told Times Select that the pupil’s parents had participated fully in the disciplinary process and had indicated that they fully support the process and its outcome.
The Ridge tuition fee for grades 3 to 7 this year amounts to R119,550 per child.In a previous statement, Stanley said that the school's mission statement makes it clear that the foundation of education provided to boys at the school “rests on instilling respect and tolerance among all of its learners and educators”.
“Corporal punishment has no place at The Ridge and is inconsistent with our approach to teaching.”
Prior to his appointment at The Ridge School in May 2016, Verster was the head of pastoral care at Rondebosch Boys' Preparatory School in Cape Town.