Behave or go home: Hoërskool Vanderbijlpark threatens pupils
Staff say the pupils are making teaching impossible, but experts say their unruly behaviour is a 'cry for help'
Pupils will push boundaries to test if their school environments can handle them, education experts say.
They called for teachers to be trained in how to handle conflict and in the psychological dynamics of pupils.
This is in response to a letter sent to parents at Hoërskool Vanderbijlpark last week, in which acting principal Peter Pieterse made a desperate plea for them to intervene in their children’s unruly behaviour.
He said teachers were tired of walking into classrooms where pupils talk back, disrupt teaching and do not bring their books to school.
It is believed the letter has since been retracted, but this could not be confirmed by the Gauteng education department.
In the letter, Pieterse said he was not willing to fill vacant posts because it was difficult to find teachers willing to teach at the school.
“We are losing educators because of learner behaviour and a lot of absenteeism of educators is due to learners’ behaviour, where teachers are broken down by unruliness and learners that do not want to work.
“We will not be searching for educators to fill an empty position, which is the result of the learners not wanting to work and disrupting the classes. If learners do not want to work or if they want to disrupt teaching any further, we will not be able to teach them,” he said.
The pupils are said to have made it impossible for an Afrikaans first additional language teacher to teach, and “this behaviour is not confined to this class alone but in the other classes as well”.
Pieterse said it was sad that they had to go such measures. “Learners who are disrupting classes will be identified and their parents/guardians are welcome to come and teach them.”
Karin van Tonder, the parent of a Grade 10 pupil at the school, said she was disappointed that the situation had deteriorated.
“It’s not nice at all. There are some pupils who don’t want to listen, so they disturb the others. As the hope of our future, they need to do better.”
A ‘strange’ case
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the case was “strange” and he had tasked his team to investigate.
“I want to make it a case study to assist other schools dealing with a similar problem. When I get the report I will act on it,” he added.
He described the pupils’ behaviour as part of a transition phase.
“People are scared of another race; others are excited to be in an environment that they were not allowed in. It’s not this school alone. Where we come from and where we are, it was not easy,” Lesufi said.
“But ill-discipline is ill-discipline, regardless of who is responsible for it. If that is the case in this school, we will go there and sort it out.”Teachers needed to find ways to instill order in classrooms without resorting to violence: “Just like at home, you take away their gadgets and they will crawl back and ask for forgiveness; it works if you are patient. Teachers are trained to deal with learners, they have to, and it’s a matter of putting their minds to it.”
Jessie-Anne Bird from the Children’s Therapy Centre said more needed to be done to support teachers.
“Too much focus is put on the curriculum, but teachers need to be trained in extra methods to handle conflict and also the psychological dynamics of learners. Learners push boundaries; they are trying to establish if the environment can handle them,” she said.
Education expert Professor Kobus Maree said pupil behaviour was a cry for help.
“Children are natural imitators, not only at home but in society at large. In the country, people are fighting over racism, crime, commissions of inquiries, previous years of corruption and political disappointments, and so this confuses them.”
Adults around them were constantly fighting over petty agendas, and “they are adapting to the culture of not being accountable. Children don’t naturally arrive at school angry and hateful; they are influenced by parents.”