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To Sir, with hate: The murder of Cape Town teacher Thulani Manqoyi sends shockwaves through education landscape


Prof Michael le Cordeur is Vice-Dean Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Education at the University of Stellenbosch. He is deputy chair of the Stigting vir die bemagtiging deur Afrikaans.

Since the abolition of corporal punishment, education systems worldwide have struggled to find an alternative. Locally the procedure around the disciplinary protocol has deteriorated into red tape to such an extent that most teachers and principals have simply abandoned it — with the fatal result we saw last week when teacher Thulani Manqoyi was shot dead.

The death of a Grade 6 maths teacher who was shot on the grounds of the Heinz Park Primary School in Philippi, Cape Town, has sent shock waves through the education landscape. Apparently, two men, who forced the security guard to give them access to the school, shot Thulani Manqoyi while he sat in his car reading his Bible before school started. Allegedly a learner had threatened Manqoyi because he had forbidden him from entering the class a while before.

This is not the first and certainly not the last time that a teacher who tries to maintain discipline is assaulted. A learner tried to attack me with a pole because I rebuked him about his behaviour. A colleague was hit on the head with a baseball bat while another colleague was stabbed with a knife at school. Every teacher knows of such incidents.

I cannot agree with opinions that teachers must now think twice before rebuking learners. Manqoyi was a dedicated, but strict teacher who treated his learners with love and respect. A teacher who did not hesitate to discipline a learner who had exceeded the boundaries of freedom, but who also realised that discipline without love makes learners more rebellious. These teachers need our support.

The reaction to the incident was predictable. Many demanded that corporal punishment should be reinstituted while it has been proven time and again that corporal punishment creates more problems than it solves. There are accusations of poor security services and teacher unions are demanding that security be improved. But will it solve the problem? Are we not barking up the wrong tree?

Since the abolition of corporal punishment, education systems worldwide have struggled to find an alternative for it. Locally, the procedure around the disciplinary protocol, with little if any impact, has deteriorated into red tape to such an extent that most teachers and principals have simply abandoned it. With the fatal result we saw last week. That is why schools do not dare to abdicate their responsibility for discipline. In many communities, the school is the last bastion of discipline.

A disciplinary approach built on values such as freedom of thought, inner discipline, love for your fellow humans and respect for your teachers and parents, offers children a safe haven and prevents them from getting involved with gangsters. Discipline and freedom thus go hand in hand. Children must learn that freedom is possible only if you respect the rules. To quote Pythagoras: “No-one is free who has not mastered himself.” A healthy balance between freedom and discipline lays the groundwork for a happy school career.

It is important that parents and teachers speak with the same tongue. Parents expect their children to go to school in a safe and disciplined environment. In the same way, it is unacceptable that teachers, who deliver one of the most important services in our country, are not safe at work.

In the short term, safety gates and guards will help, but it is not sustainable. The search for a suitable alternative to maintain discipline thus remains a priority. DM


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  • Gretha Aalbers says:

    Unconscionable that a learner can organise a hit on a teacher who had disciplined him. What is the point of having security at the school? Has the murder been investigated?

  • Charles Parr says:

    This is where liberalism has led us. How can one discipline a child when the president of the country lies under oath and cabinet ministers lie every single day. Night follows day and, unfortunately, this is the result.

    • Carsten Rasch says:

      What does lying politicians have to do with liberalism? In fact, what does the president & his socialist-leaning party have to do with it? I’m quite interested in hearing what alternative you suggest?

  • Nanette JOLLY says:

    There are methods of parenting and teaching that include friendly, fair, firm and effective discipline e.g. the STEP and Effective Parenting by Thomas Gordon. Few parents or teachers are taught these valuable effective non-violent skills, founded in respectful, loving relationships. Perhaps teacher training could include them?

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