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teachers' terror

By unknown | Mar 07, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Teaching has become as dangerous as facing bullets in the streets.

"I became a teacher instead of a police officer because I was terrified of the risks involved, only to find that the classroom is just as dangerous as fighting crime."

These are the words of a KwaZulu-Natal teacher who chose the profession because she wanted to make a difference.

She had hoped to fulfil her passion for working with and in the community without compromising her safety in the process.

But she says she wakes up every morning to go to work knowing that she faces the unknown because anything can happen while she is in her classroom.

Lily Zulu (not her real name) is a teacher at one of the Durban schools affected by misconduct and violence by pupils abusing drugs at school.

"I have been called names, pointed at with the finger several times and almost assaulted just for asking a pupil why homework was not done," she said.

In recent months there have been reports of violence related to drug-abuse at schools in KZN.

Recently a school in Umlazi, south of Durban, closed for several days after a number of ugly incidents involving pupils who were under the influence of drugs.

Teachers who were fed up with pupils who have a "rotten" attitude towards their fellow pupils and teachers decided to down tools in protest against the rampant drug problem at the school.

In the week leading up to their protest a pupil went totally "mad".

The teacher said no one knows if it was the first time the pupil had taken drugs or if it was a reaction to the prolonged taking.

"But the pupil went totally berserk," said the teacher.

He was kicked and assaulted fellow pupils while moving from one classroom to another swearing at everyone.

The school was closed and pupils sent home, but the culprit returned the following day still behaving like a crazy person, so the teachers decided to down tools.

The school was opened again the following week after the department of education and local ward councillor and parents intervened and warned pupils against the dangers of drugs.

A task team was formed to investigate the problem involving drugs at the school.

When Sowetan visited some of the neighbouring schools, it transpired that they were also badly affected by pupils taking drugs.

A principal at one of the high schools in the area said the drug problem in Umlazi township was enormous and would require anyone and everyone involved in education to fight it.

She said pupils were caught every day smoking dagga on the school premises.

"This is the reality of everyday life at most schools in the area, and maybe the country as a whole. Many pupils smoke dagga and who knows what else? The problem is beyond our control because pupils come to school with drugs," she said.

Because people on drugs react in different ways, she said, teachers live in fear because they don' t know what the pupils are capable of when they are in a drug-induced state .

At both schools principals told Sowetanthey had worked out a strategy to fight the drug problem in their schools.

But it still boiled down to one essential factor.

"We don't sell the drugs, pupils can't and do not buy them at school, but from people in the surrounding community," she said.

"We never know what will happen when the pupils are on drugs. It is very frightening for us," she said.

One principal said her school had to ditch the first aid box after teachers discovered that pupils used pain killers with some chemical to manufacture a particular drug.

She said the teachers were constantly challenged to keep up with and, even worse, try to stay ahead of pupils' tactics.

"We discovered that the painkillers we kept for emergencies could be used as drugs once mixed with certain chemicals from the science lab," said the concerned teacher.

Before they got rid of the first aid box many pupils would complain of severe headaches just to lay their hands on the painkillers.

Sowetan spoke to teachers in rural areas of the province to find out if drug abuse was affecting their schools.

Most said drugs were not a major problem.

Sibusiso Buthelezi (not his real name) a teacher in KwaNongoma said they were not badly affected by drugs.

He said few pupils at their school had been caught using drugs.

"I am assuming this but I think we are lucky because in the urban areas drugs are far more accessible than they are in the rural areas.

"Here [in the rural area] pupils get caught smoking dagga, but pupils caught using stuff like cocaine are very rare and in fact it is practically non-existent."

He said another contributing factor to drugs not being a problem at rural schools could be that the areas fall under Amakhosi, where rules are very strict and clear.

"People obey the rules because the respect towards their elders is still observed.

"I believe that schools are mostly shaped by the community they are located in," said Buthelezi.


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