Teacher's dismissal smacked down by labour court
Labour court orders new arbitration hearing for teacher who was fired for misconduct
A primary school teacher fired for hitting and kicking pupils and smacking a mother has been thrown a lifeline by the labour court.
Judge Connie Prinsloo said an arbitrator’s rubber-stamping of Rubin Kleinbooi’s dismissal was “grossly irregular”.
In her Port Elizabeth Labour Court ruling, Prinsloo said that in every instance the Education Labour Relations Council arbitrator who heard Kleinbooi’s appeal had believed pupils’ and parents’ version of events, rather than the teacher’s, without explaining why.
Prinsloo ordered a new arbitration hearing for Kleinbooi, who lost his job with the Eastern Cape education department after being found guilty of six misconduct charges to do with violence.
The charges said that in 2011 and 2012, when he was a teacher at Clarkson Primary in Uitenhage, Kleinbooi smashed a girl’s head into a desk and kicked her when she tried to run away; smacked, hit and kicked a boy; smacked a mother; verbally abused a father; and stormed into another teacher’s Grade 4 class brandishing a broomstick in order to confront a pupil.
The boy, girl, mother and father all gave evidence at the 2014 arbitration hearing before arbitrator Corne van der Berg, but in his evidence Kleinbooi said they were lying.
He said he was in the habit of “tapping” pupils on the neck or shoulder when they misbehaved, and that is all he had done to the girl, who accused him of giving her a nosebleed, and the boy, who said he hit his head against a chair.
Kleinbooi said he had been defending himself when he pushed an angry mother outside his classroom, and the same applied when he was approached by an angry father carrying a walking stick.
“[He did not dispute that he swore at [the father], but explained that [the father] also swore at him,” said Prinsloo.
Kleinbooi admitted picking up stones to defend himself from the father, but denied taking off his shirt in preparation for a fight.
“With these clear conflicting versions facing him, [Van der Berg’s] function was to ascertain the truth in the appropriate manner,” said Prinsloo.
“Glaringly absent from the arbitration award is an assessment of the credibility of the witnesses or the inherent probabilities of the versions presented, or reasons why one version is to be preferred and the other to be rejected.
“[Van der Berg] failed to perform one of his primary functions, namely to resolve disputes of fact.”