Use cellphones to bust abusive teachers

2013-10-13 14:00

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The SA Council for Educators has encouraged pupils to use their cellphones to bust teachers behaving badly.

Rej Brijraj, the council’s chief executive, said pupils should use their phones “to film violent and wayward teachers so that we can deal with them”.

“As much as the use of phones during class is too great and needs to be curbed, it is a good thing when a teacher is caught in the act, through being filmed,” he said.

This week, a Hyde Park High School teacher was arrested after allegedly sending a 16-year-old pupil a naked cellphone photograph of himself sitting in a bath.

In Limpopo last month, a pupil used his phone to record an official in the department of education using foul and racist language.

It works both ways, of course. Glenvista High School made international headlines last month when a pupil was filmed while attacking his teacher with a broom.

Cellphone videos are common – just this week, Brijraj received a video showing a woman who appears to be a teacher striking pupils’ backs with a rod.

Brijraj said officials were still trying to verify the identities of the woman and the pupils and the school involved. He believes the video was shot by a pupil who then circulated it among friends.

In the video, the teacher is shown forcing pupils to sit down on a chair and bend forward while she strikes their backs repeatedly with a rod.

Brijraj described her actions as “violence of the extreme kind”.

“We will investigate and find that teacher. She should start packing her bags. That’s grievous bodily harm. She must also find a good lawyer, because we are going to press criminal charges.”

The council was formed in 2000 and started investigating cases of teacher misconduct five years later.

“Since then, more than 300 teachers have been struck off the roll. We have investigated more than 3 000 cases. We receive about 400 cases per year, a third of which are withdrawn owing to parents’ or guardians’ unwillingness to testify,” said Brijraj.

In addition to being struck off the roll, teachers can be fined, warned or given suspended sentences. Often they are sent for anger management classes or rehabilitation.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga this week said teachers could explore forms of punishment, like detention and suspension. She warned them to stay away from corporal punishment, which is illegal in South Africa.

Last year, the council received 556 complaints against teachers. Fifty-seven hearings were held, resulting in 27 strike-offs and 29 suspensions. About 180 cases are pending.

Complaints to the council

These are some of the worst cases of violence against pupils that the SA Council for Educators has encountered in recent years:

» In 2009 in Mthatha, a teacher beat up a pupil who went into a coma and later died;

» Last year, a teacher at the Ngxambane Primary School in Lusikisiki assaulted a pupil, who later lost an eye as a result;

» In 2011, a teacher at Mthambalala Junior Secondary in KwaZulu-Natal beat a pupil, who also lost an eye;

» While administering corporal punishment, a Limpopo teacher mistakenly hit a pupil in the eye, resulting in the pupil losing the eye; and

» In KwaZulu-Natal in 2010, a teacher pretended to be helping a pupil. Instead, he was taking her home and raping her over the course of several months.

» Talk to us: Should corporal punishment in South African schools be decriminalised?

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