This comes after a recording of the altercation, which played out on Tuesday, showed an apparent verbal quarrel over a book escalating into the pupil shoving the teacher, who retaliated by striking the teenager across the face.
While the education department said it condemned the use of corporal punishment, a group of pupils at the elite school on Wednesday staged a protest in support of the teacher. They made a poster which read: “It’s not about race”.
Others contacted a Cape Town radio station, telling the host that the girl was a troublemaker.
The clip circulating on social media shows the teacher asking the pupil where her book is, and the girl replying that she doesn’t have one.
The teacher has words with her about this and grabs her cellphone, which she has in her hand.
“You want to challenge me, my dear, you are going to get last (sic),” the teacher tells her, after putting the cellphone on her desk.
“I’ve been where you’ve been. Yes. I have three degrees – two, working on my third one. You don’t even have a book in Grade 9.”
The teacher refers to the school’s code of conduct, holds it up and tells the pupil she knows the rules about cellphone use.
The girl accuses the teacher of swearing at her, and the teacher asks her what she supposedly said. The pupil asks the teacher not to shout at her, and the teacher orders her to leave the classroom.
The girl says something inaudible; the teacher asks if she is swearing at her, and the pupil says she is.
The two have words, and the teacher returns the girl’s phone before taking it back, threatening to throw it.
“Throw it ma’am. Make me,” the girl says, and the teacher pulls her table back, before pushing it back into place.
The teacher insists that the pupil leave the classroom, and the girl pushes her table into the teacher’s legs and gets up.
The girl then pushes the teacher with her shoulder, apparently reaching for her phone. The teacher slaps the pupil, before grabbing her by the front of her shirt.
The girl holds on to the teacher’s arm and tells her, “You hit me!” and the teacher replies that she pushed and swore at her.
Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said department officials were at the school on Wednesday to investigate the incident.
“This kind of behaviour from a teacher is not acceptable and the teacher will be facing disciplinary action,” Shelver said.
“The WCED is very aware of many disciplinary challenges that our educators are facing daily in our schools, but we do not tolerate the use of corporal punishment to deal with learners that show signs of behavioural issues or are ill-disciplined.”
Schafer said the teacher in the video was a school governing body (SGB) appointee. The SGB was expected to meet later in the day to discuss disciplinary steps.
“An investigation into the incident is also under way. The investigation will determine whether the learner will also face disciplinary action. Learners in the class have been asked to make a statement regarding the events that led up to the incident. There is further video evidence that has been edited out of the version being circulated,” Schafer said.
“I am aware that some commentators on social media platforms are immediately assuming that the incident is race-related. While I understand their anger at the images displayed on the edited version of the video, we cannot assume that this was racially motivated. We ask that the public allow the SGB to investigate the incident before such conclusions are made.” DM