5 October, World Teachers’ Day, is a wonderful opportunity for South Africans to celebrate the important role that teachers play in our children’s lives and to reflect on the challenges faced by these professionals. It is vital to recognise the central role of teachers in improving the quality of education in the country.
Yet there are some of them who disgraces the profession in the most egregious manner; by assaulting their charges. We recently learnt of the arrest of a 43-year-old Mossel Bay teacher, who has been accused of sexually assaulting pupils.
The United Democratic Movement (UDM) is encouraged at the prospect of the South African Police Service bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to book. Yet, it is disconcerting in the extreme that the South African Council of Educators (SACE) recently said that it had observed and increase in the influx of complaints against teachers in the first quarter of 2022/23 financial year with the majority being assault of pupils, followed by sexual misconduct.
As we understand it, of 734 complaints SACE received, 163 were for sexual harassment of a learner – the second highest category of complaints after assault of a colleague or learner.
The UDM is worried about this trend, especially since teen pregnancy is an issue at South African schools, worse still that male teachers are far too often implicated.
That the Department of Basic Education has reportedly fired 36 teachers for raping, sexually abusing and impregnating learners across the country is a small step in the right direction and is welcomed by the UDM.
It is vital that schools are safe places of discipline, order, neatness and productivity. The UDM believes that crime, especially sexual harassment and abuse, at schools should receive zero-tolerance. Offenders must be removed from institutions and punished with the full might of the law.
United Democratic Movement National Office
Mr Yongama Zigebe
UDM Secretary General