In addition to a poor infrastructure, overcrowded classes, 78% of Grade 4s being unable to read for meaning and so on, now teachers are in danger from the learners they are supposed to be educating.
It is enough. No more. Teachers have more things against them preventing them from doing their job, and it amounts to outright abuse.
Hiding behind the notion that teaching is a noble profession, that it’s a calling, will not cut it. This is similar to healthcare professionals who are expected to do their work without proper equipment, support and supplies.
The environment needs to be conducive for educators to carry out their work effectively. The teaching profession is already under threat. Young people do not see it as a career choice. Teachers are leaving the profession for greener pastures, citing low pay, workload, stress and poor working conditions.
There is a shortage of teachers in the system. And recent violent events are not helping; would-be teachers are probably having second thoughts. Why would somebody voluntarily go down a path of abuse and harm based on a calling or a passion?
Things need to change drastically. If needs be, schools need to screen their learners, know who is bringing up their learners, their parents’ occupations, criminal records, details of child-headed households, employment status, divorced parents and so on, in order to properly allocate or apply intervention measures (psychosocial services).
This requires qualified professionals. It cannot fall into the laps of teachers. If parents are aware of their children’s violent behaviour they need to notify the school.
The reality is that often violent attacks happen in township schools. We can’t afford teachers not wanting to teach in the townships. There are only so many teachers the so-called former Model C and private schools can absorb. The most and best qualified teachers are required in townships and rural schools to close the achievement and inequality gap.
As much as we put learners first, we can’t achieve much by putting teachers last. With all the challenges our teachers already face we can’t have them worry about their safety to the extent that they can’t teach effectively.
The majority of learners can’t be affected by a few of their misbehaving and violent peers. These learners need to be identified and offered the necessary support. Teaching, supporting, guiding, listening, empathising are more than enough of a role; teachers deserve respect not only from learners but their employers and pupils’ parents.
If we are not careful about how we treat our teachers, we might find ourselves without teachers, with no “foot solders” to put an end to the literacy and numeracy crisis we find ourselves in. If things do not change for the majority of learners in our schools they will be spectators of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. DM