A culture of violence

2017-09-13 13:45
Incident at KZN school highlights need to change teachers’ mindsets.

Incident at KZN school highlights need to change teachers’ mindsets. (File)

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The prevalence of violence at KZN schools highlighted by a video showing a teacher attacking a pupil is a reflection of a broader culture of violence in society.

This is the view of Pietermaritzburg psychologist Clive Willows, following concerns and outrage over the video of a brutal attack on a pupil at Umdlamfe Secondary School in Esikhawini, near Richards Bay.

“We have to understand violence in its broader sense before we can hope to eradicate it. Having individual campaigns around specific types of violence will never be effective.

“We need to confront the way violence is used as an automatic approach to a problem in our communities,” Willows said.

In the video, the teacher is seen viciously attacking a pupil with what appears to be a stick. It is not clear when the video was filmed. It has been shared more than 900 times on social media.

Willows said the violent outbursts at schools were an indication that the selection process in respect of people entrusted to look after children should be reviewed.

“The selection and training of people entrusted with the care of children should be a very careful process. If the proper training doesn’t occur these incidents will continue. The violent outbursts originate from a mindset that suggests that abusive behaviour by a person in authority is acceptable.”

He said physical punishment had long-term damaging effects on the victims.

“It destroys and damages the capacity of a child to develop trust in relationships.

“Children are taught to respect adults in a position of authority. They develop that respect because they build a trusting relationship that the person in authority is there to guide and nurture them.

“When one is faced with a situation of abuse it can break down the sense of trust between the child and adults in general.”

He suggested the Education Department should re-address the issue of discipline in the schooling system.

KZN Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the department had instituted an investigation into the matter.

“We were only able to identify the school yesterday [Monday]. We must still go to the school to establish what happened. In the meantime, the teacher will be suspended pending the investigation.”

Mthethwa urged teachers to improve their level of communication with pupils to curb violence.

“We believe there are alternative ways to instill discipline without punishing a person physically. There is no need to resort to violence.”

This week other reports emerged of an alleged video of the gang rape of a schoolgirl by a KZN principal and two teachers.

Mthethwa said the department had not been alerted to the gang rape video.

He, however, confirmed that a principal, a teacher and a security guard in the King Cetshwayo District had been implicated in sexual assault cases.

Federation of Governing bodies for South African School (Fedsas), provincial manager, Paul Rencken said behaviour like this was unacceptable.“We hope the department will investigate and take action against the teachers if they are found guilty.”

Rencken said stern measures should be taken against those who try to hide corporal punishment or any form of violence against pupils.

SA Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke condemned violence against pupils.

“Whatever anger or the circumstances we stand by the rule of law that corporal punishment is prohibited. We condemn any kind of violation of the dignity of pupils or teachers.”

Maluleke said there was a need for a dialogue with the education department to end violence in schools.

“We need to find the best way to ensure there is discipline. We also need to look at how we can change the curriculum to assist the teachers to know that they have a responsibility to guide, build and empower. We need to reduce the workload teachers are faced with that tends to lead to aggressive behaviour and depression.”

National African Teachers Union (Natu), deputy president, Allen Thompson said the video was “proof that corporal punishment does exist in schools” and said alternatives like detention are not being implemented.

Thompson discouraged teachers from physically punishing pupils.

“Even if parents have given teachers permission to punish pupils in that form they shouldn’t do it. It is unlawful.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  corporal punishment

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