Opinionista Rebone Tau 17 June 2019

It’s time to stand up for teachers and rein in pupils’ bad behaviour

We celebrate the young people of 1976; they were fearless and stood up to the brutal system of apartheid. Can we say that the generation of 1976 is happy with what is happening in our schools? Did they fight the apartheid regime for students of today to kill each other and beat up their teachers?

What we have become as a nation is a sad reality; students no longer respect their teachers because of decisions policymakers have taken. Young people are not taught that their rights come with being responsible. The Abolition of Corporal Punishment Act, 1997 (Act No. 33 of 1997) is an act of the Parliament of South Africa that abolished judicial corporal punishment. This act needs to be reviewed by the 6th Administration’s Parliament. Parents also can’t smack their children at home.

There have been videos circulating on social media showing students beating up their teachers. This must really worry us as a nation. In 2018, there was an incident at Ramotshere High School in Dinokana Village outside Zeerust in North West where a 17-year-old student stabbed his 24-year-old teacher to death. The student was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February 2019.

There are also cases of students stabbing other students. A recent case happened at Forest High School in Turffontein where a student stabbed another student to death and wounded two others. This was followed by an incident in Brits in North West, where a student stabbed another student from another school while on his way home. Additionally, a video circulated in February 2019 showing a student from Sans Souci Girls High School who was slapped by her teacher. A case was opened against the teacher.

Who is protecting the parents and teachers from the boy child? Are our laws creating monsters out of kids? What has 25 years of democracy done to our kids? Policymakers really need to reflect. We can’t say kids have rights while we don’t come up with solutions to instil discipline in the students. Detention does not work at all.

If policymakers don’t review this policy, we could end up in the near future with people not wanting to be teachers. Teachers’ salaries are too low and they still have to put their lives at risk not knowing what will happen to them while in the line of duty.

There is a school in Springs where matric students tell teachers that they can’t be taught on Mondays, as they are recovering from weekend hangovers. They also insist on not being taught on Fridays because they are planning for the weekend. They are therefore reportedly only taught from Tuesday to Thursday.

Teachers are suffering and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) is not really vocal on these challenges. SADTU is in a better position to engage the ANC leadership and influence policy positions of the ANC-led government. Unions can’t just be vocal when it comes to leadership preferences in the ANC.

We need to make sure that even patriotism is instilled in our kids from primary school onward. We need young people who will be patriotic and put their country first; young people who will respect the South African flag and the national anthem. Americans have what they call the American Dream and they pride themselves in it. We need to come to a point when we say “I am a South African” and say it with pride.

Policymakers must not destroy young people’s lives through questionable acts adopted in Parliament. We need to have young people from all races and different political youth formations understanding that we are South Africans and we have a rich history as a nation.

We need to make sure that our national interests are defined and they unite us as a nation. We need the spirit of Ubuntu to be revived. Growing up you knew that you couldn’t misbehave even when your parents were not near you, as the elders in our communities were also our parents outside of our homes.

We lack a battle of ideas as young people within the progressive youth alliance (African National Congress Youth League, Young Communist League, Congress of South African Students and South African Student Congress) to really engage the ANC on where we are as a nation in the 25 years of democracy.

All we look at is wanting money and a nice lifestyle without looking at the challenges that are facing the nation or making sure that we focus on reviewing certain policy positions that were taken by government concerning young people. This is due to the fact that we are not led by activists any more but by career politicians.

We also need to do away with youth parliaments; they are just a wasteful expenditure. We talk about young people going to the national assembly; therefore we don’t need the youth parliaments at all. That money can be used towards young people in society who can say to the ANC that not all policy positions have given us the results we wanted in building our beautiful country.

We have a lot of young teachers and we need to make sure they are also protected in schools if we are serious about the future of this country.

Teachers produce doctors, lawyers, policemen, ministers, and presidents. They deserve all the support of policymakers, who are also products of teachers. DM

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