The country has been witnessing a series of shocking videos showing violence by learners towards teachers or the other way round‚ but what does this say about the times South Africans find themselves in?
Experts are of the opinion that schools mirror society.
Paul Colditz‚ CEO for the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas)‚ partly blamed the rise of violence in school on political leaders.
“We’re not seeing the ethically driven leadership that we need to see. When pupils see people getting manhandled in the highest chamber of society [Parliament] they start to think that violence is okay. We lack‚ in general‚ an attitude of appreciation for the fundamental values of dignity‚ equality and freedom as enshrined in the constitution‚” Colditz said.
Colditz said while schools are educational and disciplinary institutions‚ teaching of “respect and values rest on parents”.
He said when a learner is behaving inappropriately people ask “what type of a house does this child come from? Something serious must have gone wrong [at home]”.
He emphasised that people in positions of authority‚ such as politicians‚ should intervene in order to safeguard the integrity of the teaching profession.
South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said the violence has resulted in some teachers leaving the profession.
“They leave the profession because they cannot handle the violence. It may look like the attacks are on the rise but in fact these things have been happening and teachers simply don’t report the incidents. They feel the wheel of justice is slow‚ hence they don’t do anything about it‚” said Cembi.
She said that the education fraternity needed support from social and psychological experts together with parents to ensure a safe and conducive learning environment.
Parenting associate professor Catherine Ward at the University of Cape Town was careful not to entirely lay the responsibility on parents.
“Bear in mind‚ South Africa is a violent country. Teachers and learners are surrounded by the same violence. Both are socialised to think that violence is the way‚” said Ward.
Ward said parents need support as they also deal with a lot of socio-economic challenges while trying to raise their children. “What they can do is set the tone of non-violent relationships from home‚” she said.
National spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance Ofentse Mboweni said that the scourge of sexual and physical violence in schools has reached crisis levels.
“Our children are sent to school to be educated but end up being victims of violence‚ often from the very people who are meant to protect them. Problems of teacher misconduct and learner violence can only be solved through a collaborative effort by the national police‚ the Basic Education‚ Social Development and Justice departments‚ together with provincial departments of education‚” said Mboweni.
As a result‚ the DA will be launching a safe schools campaign which seeks to bring the plight of learners to the forefront of the government agenda.