Teachers behaving badly

Learner shows a hand with a blood blister mark after they were allegedly whipped by their maths teacher at school.
Learner shows a hand with a blood blister mark after they were allegedly whipped by their maths teacher at school.

Complaints against teachers are on the decline, with 312 cases filed since March with the SA Council for Educators (Sace), amid violence and sex-for-marks allegations that rocked public schools this past year.

Of those cases 173 have been finalised, 118 are being investigated or disciplinary hearings are under way and 21 cases are still waiting to be investigated.

Details of this year’s cases formed part of a report tabled recently by officials from Sace, the statutory body for teachers, at a meeting of the parliamentary portfolio committee on basic education.

The number of cases appears to be on the decline, with 561 in 2017/18 and 593 the year before that.

But the feeling is that cases are not finalised quickly enough.

The Sace report found that in addition to this year’s cases, 248 were carried over from 2016/17. Of those, only 126 were finalised by March 31 – the end of the 2017/18 financial year.

Of this year’s 312 cases, 253 complaints were filed against teachers for allegedly meting out corporal punishment.

Alarmingly, of the 560 cases which Sace dealt with this year – including those rolled over from previous years – 301 were finalised without a hearing being held. And, of those, 233 advisory letters – including letters of warning – were issued to teachers.

Four cases are being mediated, six cases were withdrawn before any hearing could be held, and 38 were closed because of a lack of evidence. And 20 cases were referred to the department of basic education, the police and the Education Labour Relations Council.

Only 26 cases were finalised through hearings. These included five teachers who were “struck off the roll indefinitely”; six teachers were struck off the roll but may reapply for admission in the future; and 18 teachers who were struck off the roll but the decision was suspended.

Two teachers were fined and two teachers were found not guilty.

The report revealed the names of 24 teachers, who had been found “unfit to work with children”. The names had been submitted to the department of social development to be included in the National Child Protection Register.

 Steve Mabona

Slow action against ‘errant’ teacher

One case that illustrates how slowly action is taken against teachers – and which still has to reach Sace – was that of Soweto’s Kgatelopele Secondary School principal, Phandelani Mokono.

The Gauteng education department is investigating a formal complaint filed in May by members of his teaching staff that he “instigates” pupils to threaten and attack them.

Staff also alleged that pupils admitted to having a “hit-list” containing names of teachers who needed to be removed from the school.

And one of the teachers, whose name is known to City Press, was allegedly attacked and constantly threatened by pupils and has since left the school.

“We feel that [the principal] should be removed as he constantly takes us for granted … He said that pupils are our employers, he constantly tells them this, and pupils use this to disrespect us,” said the complaint.

“Pupils feel free to walk to his office even when they have disrespected teachers. Hence it is difficult to reprimand pupils because they always say they will go to the office and speak to the principal ‘man to man’.

“They even refer to him as Bra Gibbs [a charismatic character, who played the role of a principal in the pocket of a local gangster in a television drama Yizo-Yizo].”

Mokono declined to comment on the allegations, referring all questions to the department.

But he did say his working relations with the complainants – who are most of the teachers at the school – were strained. An SA Democratic Teachers’ Union member, Mokono blames the tension on the launch of the new Educators’ Union of SA (Eusa) at the school.

Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona said some of the grievances the teachers raised were addressed and it was agreed at a meeting between officials and Eusa on Friday last week that engagements must continue to resolve outstanding problems.

No action had been taken against Mokono because they were still investigating.


Abuse of children by teachers seems to be on the decline, but is it really?

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