By Romeo Zwide, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
The image of a young pupil in eighth grade assaulting a teacher at Glenvista High School in Johannesburg is still strong in the mind of television viewers in South Africa.
This awful event was soon followed by the shooting of a teacher by a pupil. It is also reported that in another school, a schoolboy punched a teacher after she had asked him to take off a jersey which was not part of the school uniform. This is an unusual situation in African schools where ubuntu (humanity) is part of basic home education.
Some critics are questioning the reaction of the fellow pupils who were heard laughing and ululating during these events. Critics argue that this is down to a lack of parental guidance. Some of the parents, who were asked to comment about this, blamed the Department of Basic Education policies. They claimed that the department’s policies seem to be favouring pupils. It is alleged that teachers and parents hands are tied since corporal punishment is no longer allowed in South African schools.
Another cause, critics argue, is because the process of socialisation, which comes with a saying ‘my child is your child’, is no longer practised. What is meant by this saying is that any adult is obliged to reprimand a neighbour’s child if he or she is misbehaving.
“How can a 15-year-old parent give mature guidance to his or her child?”
The teenage pregnancy rate, which is escalating in this country, is also pointed at as a source of pupil’s unacceptable behaviour. After all, how can a 15-year-old parent give mature guidance to his or her child?
The teacher’s unions are not happy about recent attacks on their members. They have been claiming for many years that schools are no longer safe for their members as some pupils come to school armed with knives and guns. Unions have been demanding random searches of pupils by local police, and that each and every school should be given a security guard.
As mentioned above, ubuntu has been the driving force behind the upbringing of an African child. Ubuntu assists the pupil with self-control. In ubuntu whenever a person is faced with a challenge, he or she must ask this question; ‘what will other people say if I do this? Will I be accepted by my society after doing this?’ A person whose actions are not controlled by these questions, in Zulu is referred to as ‘inswelaboya’, meaning that by behaving in that way, he or she acts like an animal.
Since 1994, October 5 has been declared by UNESCO as World Teachers’ Day. It is reported that the main focus of UNESCO is on improving quality education and teachers role in developing globally minded citizens- something that the students of South Africa need to become.