Teachers in the firing line

2011-03-19 18:24

Being humiliated in public by a ­pupil young enough to be her child is not a new thing for teacher Betty Matsaung.

She has been assaulted with bare fists by a pupil, ridiculed and called names such as “dog” by others – because she told them to do their work.

Matsaung (37) teaches geography and Sepedi at Nthabiseng High School near Soekmekaar, in Limpopo, and has been a teacher for the past 15 years.

She has experienced physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of the children whose future she works so hard to nurture.

She recalls an incident when she lost her cool after one pupil tried to convince his classmates not to write a test.
“I got angry and tried to discipline the learner.

He then confronted me and started punching me,” she said.

She laid criminal charges against the teenager, who was arrested, but later decided to drop the charges after the child apologised to her.

But the emotional scars and damage to her health remain.

She has been suffering from hypertension and high blood pressure for the past 10 years, and her latest doctor’s note says her condition is “always high and aggravated by stress at work”.

Stories of poor discipline and ­violent behaviour by pupils are ­surfacing all over Limpopo.

A pupil at a school in Botlokwa, north of Polokwane, allegedly hit the school’s principal with a stone, breaking a tooth.

A retired principal from ­Bolobedu, outside Tzaneen, said learner ill-discipline was rife, especially at schools situated in impoverished rural communities where the parents had low skills and education levels.

He said an unruly pupil once ­demanded a ransom of R200 from a teacher who “had lightly shoved him for not doing his work”.

The pupil was eventually given R150 and agreed not to lay criminal charges.

These stories have surfaced amid calls by the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) for pupils to retaliate against teachers who physically discipline them.

Cosas believes some teachers are violating the rights of pupils with their wanton aggression.

George Mudumela, the South African Democratic Teachers’ ­Union’s Limpopo secretary, said although security in schools needed to be improved, teachers felt “relatively safe”.

“Safety standards vary from school to school, and that is why we normally call for the improvement of security,” Mudumela said.

He added that problems included learners coming to school drunk or armed.

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