11 March 2018

South Africa: SADTU Condemns Violence Against Teachers

press release

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) has noted with great concern a video clip on social media of a teacher being exposed to gross learner misbehaviour; the incident allegedly happened at Three Rivers Secondary School in Sedibeng. In the video clip, a learner is seen violently throwing a pile of books towards a teacher in class seemingly in reaction to whatever could have happened prior whilst other learners recorded the incident.

The helpless teacher is then seen leaving the classroom clearly fearing the possibility of more violence being committed against her. We commend the teacher for having acted in a very professional manner against extreme provocation by the learner.

SADTU strongly condemns any form of violence committed against teachers by learners or any other member of society whilst performing their duties. It is our strong view that irrespective of whatever the circumstances that might have led the learner to react in that manner, she had no right to threaten the teacher and expose her to that kind of violence. Being an educator must never be viewed as a dangerous profession if we are to reach our developmental goals as a country utilising education as the main tool.

The incident that has now gone viral on social media is just the tip of the iceberg and we are aware that more teachers are exposed to same if not worse. Just a few months ago, we spoke out strongly against an incident in which a teacher from the Northern Cape was brutally murdered by a learner who had accused the same teacher of deliberately failing him.

It concerns us as a Union representing education workers that learners can freely subject teachers to such forms of violence without any fear of consequences. We are calling upon the authorities in the department of education to take stern corrective disciplinary measures against the learner in the video. It is our view that the disciplinary measures must be complemented by a form of counselling for both the learner and the teacher concerned.

We are also calling for a radical transformation in the manner in which we view education in this country. Education must not just be relegated to skills acquisition without the important elements of values and ethics. Education has a far much bigger role to play in terms of yielding respectful, patriotic and cultured South Africans to move our country forward.

Learners must be engaged and made to understand that violence is not the answer to any situation and that there are processes of recourse that can be followed should they feel aggrieved by a teacher within the schooling environment. We are further calling upon parents to increase their involvement in the education of their children and not leave the burden of maintaining discipline to the teachers only. The department of education must accelerate the implementation of the collective agreement on availing psycho-social support services in schools to assist the teachers in dealing with such matters. This is now more urgent than ever.

We want to emphasise that education is a societal issue. The responsibility of educating the nation can never be relegated to just the teacher and the learner in the classroom. It therefore demands that that everyone in society should denounce violence and uphold the human rights culture. The nation must stand together in protecting the profession and work towards building a more tolerant society.

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