Rights without responsibility has caused trouble in schools – Enver Surty

2014-03-07 13:50

Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty has said the fact that pupils are told about their rights on a daily basis, without the accompanying emphasis on responsibilities, creates problems at schools.

Surty was speaking at a summit on discipline in schools, hosted by his department at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg today.

“Learners come to school with drugs, guns and they abuse each other and teachers, they disobey authority and sexually assault one another. We have read about these things in the media. We can’t pretend as if they don’t exist. Twenty percent of kids have been exposed to one form of bullying or another. The question is: What are we going to do about it?” he said.

Surty said with the abolition of corporal punishment, teachers feel they have lost the ability to instil discipline. “Just the threat of corporal punishment was enough to instill discipline, but now it is illegal. Is this correct? What type of alternatives can we explore?”

Principals and teachers had a duty to enforce discipline, he said. “Teachers have to dress and present themselves as accountable professionals with the best interest of the kids at heart. We have been debating this issue and it’s complex.”

Patrick Burton of the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention said one in five pupils had experienced school violence.

“The classroom is the most common site for violence. It is followed by the playing grounds.”

He said a study has revealed that:

» 12.2% of pupils have been threatened with violence

» 6.3% have been assaulted

» 4.7% have been sexually assaulted and

» 44% have had their property stolen

Bobby Soobrayan, director-general of the department of basic education, said school discipline was a critical matter, which required urgent attention,

“The nation is asking itself: What exactly is happening in our schools? There are shootings, stabbings, drugs and sexual violence all over the show.”

While these acts did not represent the typical school, they were a matter for serious concern, he said. “This happens when there is a breakdown of the functionality of the school. Teachers and parents can’t be excluded. We have to look at this holistically.”

He said violence in schools was a reflection of what is happening in society.

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