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Dept probes water attack


The video also elicited a strong response from the public, many of whom called on parents to take responsibility

ACTION: The Northern Cape Department of Education is in the process of implementing formal disciplinary measures against a Grade 9 pupil at Kimberley Boys High after a video depicting the pupil throwing water at a teacher was circulated on social media. This image was taken from the video.

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Education is in the process of implementing formal disciplinary measures against a Grade 9 pupil at Kimberley Boys’ High after a video depicting the pupil throwing water at a teacher was circulated on social media.

In the video, the pupil is seen walking up to the teacher and discussing something with her before throwing water in her face from a water bottle he is holding.

The incident happened in front of other pupils in the class and some pupils can be heard cheering.

The teacher is seen grabbing the water bottle from the pupil and disposing of it before walking out of the classroom.

Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe, said yesterday that the department was monitoring the situation.

“The Northern Cape Department of Education is aware of the incident that occurred on Friday last week at Kimberley Boys’ High School. The school has started preparatory measures for a formal disciplinary hearing against the Grade 9 pupil,” said Van der Merwe.

“The Frances Baard District office visited the school this morning (yesterday) and we will closely monitor the situation. This type of behaviour is unacceptable and parents must fulfil their primary responsibility to inculcate good values and norms in their children.”

Teachers unions in the city described the behaviour of the pupil as appalling, unacceptable and borderline dangerous.

The unions pointed out that teachers faced these types of incidents almost daily.

The provincial spokesperson for the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwys Unie (SAOU), Henk Brand, called on the Department of Education to expel the pupil.

“We condemn the behaviour depicted against adults, especially against the teacher. We have requested the national Department of Basic Education to hold an indaba where incidents like these can be discussed. Teachers nowadays are often not supported and have to deal with unruly behaviour like this on their own. The pupil in the video should be expelled and there should be a disciplinary inquiry into the matter followed by an in-depth investigation,” said Brand.

“In this instance the pupil used water but it could have been something far worse . . . what if he threw the bottle at the teacher? There have been several instances and reports where pupils actually used dangerous weapons against defenceless teachers.

“Teachers do not know how to defend themselves any more. They have to make hard decisions in a split second while the department takes months to resolve such incidents. It is unacceptable that pupils are allowed to act in this manner.”

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) said that the law limits teachers with regards to imposing discipline on pupils.

The spokesperson for Naptosa, Greg Titus, said yesterday that the scourge of violence in schools was a major concern.

He added that teachers usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to dealing with such matters.

“We warned the department during a school safety summit held in October in Pretoria that we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb when it comes to the behaviour and discipline of pupils. The behaviour of pupils is getting worse. The pupil in the video violated the teacher’s private space. Had it been the other way around, the teacher would have been in serious trouble.

“The department is very reactive when pupils’ rights are infringed but drag their feet when it comes to solving incidents where a teacher’s safety is threatened,” said Titus.

He said that the rights and safety of teachers were not considered. “Corporal punishment has been removed and we are also instructed by the Constitution to protect the interests of the child. However, the rights and safety of teachers are not taken into account. The department is obliged to ensure that teachers and supporting staff work in a safe environment. However, those who attack teachers are inside the classroom.

“There was an incident in the North West where a young teacher was killed. The law is just not strict enough when it comes to incidents like this. According to common law, employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees and to ensure a safe working environment.”

Titus added that the legislation regarding the punishment of unruly pupils also needed to be amended.

“An unruly pupil can only be expelled for seven days and can be back in the class again after that. That pupil is then seen as a hero by other pupils when he or she returns to school. The law needs to be reviewed to have a balance.

“Of late, the local news and social media have been saturated with stories of violence at schools. More specifically, pupil-on-teacher violence. These stories then take centre stage and have become talking points at various levels of social interaction as they go viral within minutes of happening.

“What is disturbing is to see pupils excited and ululating in jubilation when they see a pupil assaulting a teacher or another pupil. Pupils seldom intervene. They are often seen urging on the perpetrator.”

Titus added that the matter needed the involvement of all parties.

“The parents of pupils need to get involved, as well as the department, the school governing body and educators. In some instances, the parents themselves do not discipline their children and leave it entirely in the hands of educators. It is unacceptable.

“In some instances, parents also need to be charged for the behaviour of their children.

“Societal activism is needed to curb the scourge of violence in our schools. Parents must search their children’s school bags and check for weapons. These weapons are taken from homes to schools, hence we call on parents to assist in making schools a safer place for all pupils.

“We have to work hand in hand with non-governmental organisations with the expertise to identify and root out these incidents before they even happen.”

The video also elicited a strong response from the public, many of whom called on parents to take responsibility.

“Parents do not teach their children to respect other people, least of all their teachers. The boy involved in the incident is a hooligan and should be expelled from school,” one parent said yesterday.

“It is about time that parents keep their rude children tied up at home because they do not know how to act in society. This is rubbish.”