Teachers go to school, but live in fear

More guards after maths master is stabbed to death

23 September 2018 - 00:00 By PREGA GOVENDER

North West is preparing to send in security guards to its 100 most ill-disciplined schools following the murder of a teacher. And a teachers' union is pushing for school governing bodies across the country to be given the power to expel problem pupils.
Teachers are also threatening to refuse to teach if the department of basic education fails to urgently come up with measures to address pupil attacks on teachers.
Gadimang Mokolobate, 24, a maths teacher at Ramotshere Secondary School outside Zeerust, was stabbed to death last week, allegedly by a 17-year-old pupil. The pupil was said to have been angry that the teacher had scolded him the previous day for jumping the food queue.
Teachers at the school told the Sunday Times this week that the teenager had been caught with an Okapi knife at school in April. The knife was confiscated and the pupil faced disciplinary action. He had also been found with dagga.
SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) media officer Nomusa Cembi said the union's general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, and deputy president, Mabutho Cele, had met basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Thursday. They raised teachers' concerns over safety.
She said the delegation told Motshekga that if teachers did not see any action from the department, they would refuse to go to class.
The minister is due to meet her counterparts from police and social development within days to find solutions to the problem of teachers being attacked.
This follows several attacks in recent days. On Tuesday an 18-year-old boy assaulted a Grade 12 teacher at a Limpopo school and poured water over her face and body after she confiscated his cellphone.
Last week a 15-year-old boy from Eldorado Park Secondary in Gauteng was arrested after pointing a gun at a teacher.
Earlier this year, Kingston Vhiya, a 42-year-old teacher from Bosele Middle School near Kuruman in the Northern Cape, was stabbed to death at his home by a 15-year-old pupil who accused him of failing him.
North West education MEC Sello Lehari said his department was planning to deploy security guards to about 100 "hotspot" schools in the province.
"We are going to work with priests, chiefs, political parties and teacher unions to talk to learners. We must teach them that anybody standing in front of the class is your parent," he said.
Lehari said an urgent school safety summit would be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Basic education department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga described the attack on teachers as "a crisis".
"We believe these attacks are under-reported. The minister is extremely shocked and disappointed that a learner could resort to such an extreme act of violence towards a teacher who was simply doing his job," Mhlanga said.
National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) president Nkosiphendule Ntantala said the body had made a submission to the basic education department that governing bodies be given the power to expel pupils.
Currently only provincial education departments can suspend or expel pupils.
"We have been calling for the strengthening of the SA Schools Act, particularly where it deals with learner discipline. We believe there should be much harsher sanctions against problematic learners," said Ntantala.
He said they had hoped disciplinary cases against pupils would have helped deter unruly behaviour, "but instead of minimising it, it has escalated".
"When these learners commit acts of misconduct, they return to the school as heroes."
Teachers at Ramotshere Secondary described Mokolobate, who joined the school in April, as a disciplinarian who was "loved by everyone".
A senior teacher said she was terrified of being at the school.
"I can't sleep at night," she said.
Pupils became emotional when they spoke about Mokolobate and how he was disliked by some pupils because he was a strict disciplinarian.
"He wanted learners to focus on their books. They felt Mr Mokolobate was too strict but one thing I know is that he wanted what was best for us," said a Grade 11 pupil.
Pupils described the suspect as a "quiet" and "friendly" boy.
"We used to see him smoking weed," said one of the pupils.
Modise Khanye, 41, one of the suspect's relatives, said the teenager's mother had asked a pastor to pray for him after he came home the day before the murder looking very angry.
"The mother was concerned about the boy because he had a lot of anger that day."
He said the boy, who is being held in a place of safety, had abandoned his bail application because he feared for his safety.
He will appear in court again on October 10.

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