'They just saw us as useless' - Teachers ditch schools as they despair over unruly kids

Pupil hits teacher with a book at Three Rivers Secondary School. Image: FILE PHOTO
Pupil hits teacher with a book at Three Rivers Secondary School. Image: FILE PHOTO

An Mpumalanga teacher‚ *Angelina‚ left her high school teaching post after being disturbed by inappropriate comments and advances from her pupils.

Another‚ *Thuli‚ also from Mpumalanga‚ said she ditched her high school post because she failed to get her learners to take her seriously.

Angelina‚ who was just 24 years old when she started teaching‚ said what she endured‚ was “border line of sexual assault”‚ as the older pupils would comment on her physique.

“It was tough‚” she said‚ adding that she felt intimidated and powerless‚ especially when trying to discipline a group of male learners.

Thuli said after trying to exert her authority for over a year‚ she gave up.

“They had no respect for us at all. They just saw useless things in us‚” said Thuli‚ who was also in her early 20s when she began teaching.

Both are now happier at primary schools.

Thuli said methods of discipline she tried did not work. Angelina said corporal punishment or any other form of punishment would not have worked because she became afraid of some of her learners.

Several days ago‚ a video of a learner from the Three Rivers Secondary School in Vereeniging‚ hurling an exercise book at a teacher in front of the entire class went viral. The teacher had reportedly reprimanded the girl after she had continued to have her book open as she quickly tried to revise for a test they were set to write that day.

In the video‚ she was seen leaving the classroom‚ not confronting the learner. The learner was suspended. Thuli told the publication that such scenes were not unusual.

South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said the ill-discipline teachers endured had resulted in some leaving the profession.

“They leave the profession because they cannot handle the violence. It may look like the attacks are on the rise but in fact these things have been happening and teachers simply don’t report the incidents. They feel the wheel of justice is slow‚ hence they don’t do anything about it‚” said Cembi.

She said that the education fraternity needed support from social and psychological experts‚ together with parents‚ to ensure a safe and conducive learning environment.

Following the video‚ some took to Twitter to share stories of how teachers had been on the receiving end of unruly children in the classroom.

One person tweeted about a pregnant friend who was stabbed with a pencil in her stomach by a learner.

In a follow-up tweet‚ it was clarified that the baby was luckily not injured. In the Northern Cape‚ however‚ one teacher was not so lucky. Kingston Vhiya was fatally stabbed‚ allegedly by a 15-year-old Grade 8 pupil after he failed him earlier this year. The young boy was alleged to have entered Vhiya’s house on a Saturday and attacked him.

But despite the troubles faced by those in the teaching sector‚ many continue to flood universities to enrol for teaching courses.

“I chose teaching because I want to make a difference in the world‚” said Marno Sprauss‚ a first-year teaching student at Varsity College.

“I am more excited about that than the challenges which will come‚” he said.

Another‚ also in Varsity College‚ said while government may have been correct in doing away with corporal punishment‚ teachers needed new mechanisms to deal with unruly learners as “what they are doing now is not working.”

She said some teachers were leaning towards teaching at primary schools as they deemed it safer and less stressful.

-Additional reporting by Kgaugelo Masweneng

*Not their real names

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