Another school, another video that goes viral on social media and sadly, two learners scarred for life.
The writing is on the chalkboard… but is anyone reading?
This is not just corporal punishment. It is inhumane. It is violence on a level that is breaking down the foundation of schools in democratic South Africa. It goes against the very act (the South African Schools Act) that was made law exactly 20 years ago, ironically, banning the use of physical force to discipline learners.
But, there he stood. An educator at a KwaZulu-Natal school angrily brandished his cane. He hit one female learner with the cane, and ignored her cries of pain. He went to another female learner, and as she fought to break free, he fought back fiercely. He even pulled off her jersey and then caned her. I forced myself to watch the video without sound but I am haunted by her sobbing.
I think of my students, and their parents. For many, education does not come easily. The costs are massive. School uniforms, fees, stationery and activities… the list increases every year. Parents forsake many necessities, not luxuries, to ensure that they are able to give their children quality education. What expectations do they have? That at school, their children will be protected, taught and nurtured in a loving environment to become responsible youth, capable of eventually finding their place within South Africa’s workforce. No matter how irresponsibly a child behaves, teachers must respect that.
There are many mechanisms to deal with unruly or poorly-performing learners. Teachers can speak to the learner one-on-one or call their parents. You may never know their circumstances at home.
Recently one of my students asked me to assist her with a motivation letter for a bursary. She is among the top performing students – a friendly young lady who attends all her lessons and is always smiling. I asked her if there was anything I could add to motivate why she should receive the bursary. She comes from a single-headed household. Her dad is late and her mum is the only breadwinner. But the company that her mum works for is under financial strain. Her mum is only receiving 25% of her salary. And, she hid all this, behind her hard work and smile.
Did the educator in the video stop at least once to think about any of this?
No, he did not stop at all. He spewed anger and assaulted the learners. He was enraged. It seemed like he would stop at nothing to violently attack the very learners he was entrusted to protect.
His actions clearly show how some schools are breeding a legacy of violence. It is symptomatic of the wave of violence gripping the country. Blood spills everywhere… within homes, families, political parties and on the streets. We are a country at war with ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. The statistics that show you are most likely to become by a victim of crime by someone you know, do not lie.
The responsibility to reverse this trend does not lie solely on education authorities. School by school, educator by educator, learner by learner… there needs to be a revolution and re-commitment to the true values of education. And let it begin with this
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” – Nelson Mandela
Today, our soul is sullied. The act of physical beating learners has raised the ire of thousands of South Africans who have seen this video circulate rapidly on social media. Many parents fear: could my child be next?
Undoubtedly, being an educator is challenging. But, it remains one of the oldest and most noble professions. My primary and high school teachers have played an invaluable role in my life and shaped me into the person I am today. I could never thank them enough. The legacy of all educators in South Africa should be the same.