Hey, parents, leave those teachers alone
Apart from attacks by pupils, educators are now also being set upon by parents and community members
A KwaZulu-Natal primary school teacher dreads the day she has to step back into her classroom after angry parents tried to attack her.
The parents, she claimed, intimidated her and tried to drag her out of a car when she arrived at school on Monday morning because of dismal isiZulu results last term.
“I’m dreading returning to the classroom. I have never been this traumatised and humiliated in my nine years of teaching,” said the teacher, who asked not to be named.
The incident has been reported to the provincial education department.
Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the incident was “criminal”.
“We would like to emphasise to the parents that whilst they have an interest in the education of their children, they don’t have a right to violently abuse our educators, and this is actually criminal,” said Mahlambi.
The teacher, who is currently at home awaiting the outcome of a departmental investigation, is not alone in her woes.
Increasingly SA’s teachers have not only become prone to attacks by pupils, but have also suffered abuse, physical and verbal, at the hands of parents and community members.
In February, a 52-year-old Rustenburg teacher was rushed to hospital after a mother allegedly assaulted her with an umbrella after accusing her of beating her child.
A month later a 17-year-old North West pupil was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of maths teacher Gadimang Mokolobate.
Acts of aggression, intimidation and violence, say teacher unions, are propelling more teachers to consider bowing out of the profession, prompting them to call for security to be bolstered at schools.
“Many teachers cite violence as a reason for considering exiting the profession. No absolute figures are available to support this, but anecdotal evidence suggests that many teachers are simply fed up with the conditions under which they teach and add violence as the last straw that encouraged a decision,” said Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa).
He said daily incidents went unreported by teachers because few of them wanted people to know “they have been on the receiving end”.
The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) and the National Teachers’ Union have also recently seen more teachers keen to exit the profession.
“From our engagement with members, we have come to learn that violence and lack of discipline in our schools is one of the reasons that cause teachers to leave the profession, but unfortunately we do not have the statistics,” said Sadtu spokesperson Nomusa Cembi.
With violence against teachers having reached crisis point, the SA Council for Educators (Sace) recently launched the right, responsibilities and safety programme to arm teachers with knowledge in order to handle classroom violence.
Sace spokesperson Themba Ndhlovu said: “We have seen a parent attacking a teacher as one such example ... however, in our interaction with teachers, they indicate that this is the reality they face of being abused by parents and members of society.”
He said a handbook was being put together by lead researchers, collecting data through focus-group interviews, and a general questionnaire to hear teachers’ voices on these matters and provide guidance on how to deal with unsafe conditions.
Basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mahlangu said: “If it happens that some teachers leave because they feel unsafe, it is reasonable seeing that our young people have become violent. It is, however, incorrect to apportion blame on the department, whereas society should be held to account.
“We will do our best to protect our teachers, but it has to be a partnership with parents.”