FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) believes that the government has not done enough to create a safe environment for teachers in schools.
Instead, the union believes that much discussion in schools focuses on parents’ concerns for the safety of students in the classroom. The union’s concern comes just days after one of the teachers was brutally beaten up by a group of students at Matshekge Senior Secondary School. Both the police and the school have launched an investigation into the matter. What is more worrying to the union is that one of the students was involved in a similar incident last term and then served a 20-day suspension.
Then, he had severely injured a male teacher on the head after he hit him with a brick. The school management had also recommended the expulsion of the said student according to BOSETU. “Had the student been expelled timely as recommended by the school maybe the incident could not have occurred. The ministry usually takes time to act on students recommended for expulsion and some of them even end up completing school.
“They continue causing trouble even after being recommended for expulsion,” said BOSETU spokesperson, Edwin Maitshoko in an interview with Mmegi yesterday. Maitshoko said that if some unruly students are not expelled as per recommendations of school authorities, it encourages other students to beat teachers because they will know that no stern action will follow as a result of their actions.
Although he did not provide figures the union spokesperson said that violence towards teachers has been on the rise because of increasing drug and substance abuse amongst students. He said students become very uncontrollable when they are about to complete their final examination. “There is need for the government to invest on strategies that can help improve the safety of teachers. The teaching environment is increasingly becoming unsafe,” he said.
Maitshoko also said that the government should also seriously consider paying teachers a risk allowance because students expose them to potential harm. “Our members have been advocating for risk allowance for years,” Maitshoko said. Cases of students beating up teachers are legendary in the country’s education system. The stabbing of a Mmei Junior Secondary School teacher towards the end of 2011 further highlighted the potential danger that stalks teachers in classrooms.
The unnamed male teacher was stabbed on the head, shoulder and at the back by three rowdy teenage boys. In October 2011, an 18-year-old student at Swaneng Hill Senior Secondary School stabbed a teacher with a knife on the hand after an altercation in the storeroom. The infuriated student is said to have demanded that the teacher give him back his ‘Beanie’, which the teacher had confiscated.
In one the most notable incidents in June 2004, a Lentswe Secondary School teacher, Baraedi Lekabe was left blind in one eye after a student hacked him with an iron
Nearly three years ago teachers at Matsheng Junior Secondary School in Sojwe village escaped unharmed after the police intercepted a gun-totting student, allegedly on his way to shoot teachers. The student was reportedly angry at school authorities after he was suspended for misbehaviour. A memo authored by the deputy school head at Matshekge identified only as B.C. Kesianye on October 12, 2018 communicated an update to the staff of the school.
A leaked memo passed to this publication worriedly revealed: “Another nasty incident occurred in our school yesterday on 11th October, 2018 during afternoon study where five students ganged up against a Mr. Otukile who is on duty and beat him up.” The five students whose names are known to Mmegi are from the school’s 5L; 5B, 5Q and two of them are from 5K. Two more suspected students were from 5H and 5L. It’s indicated that the five students after doing that hideous act, ran away. The police were called in and apprehended two of the seven students and took them in for questioning whilst the remaining suspected students were seen running around the school premises before they were caught as well.
“They have all been handed over to the police and a decision has been taken that the two boys who were accommodated in the school hostels will lose that privilege and all the seven students will be suspended from school and write examinations coming from home while other stakeholders in the Education Department are being consulted,” further reads the memo. A decision has been taken primarily, “for safety and security purposes. Mr. Otukile is being attended to at the hospital; he sustained minor injuries on the knees and a bump and a scratch behind the right ear.”
Kesianye has emphasised that the police are still going on with their investigations and the school is also conducting its own probe. Yesterday, Bobonong Police station commander Paul Seoko however said that he was not aware of the incident.
“I have just returned from leave. I have not been made aware of such a case if indeed it has been registered in my station,” Seoko said.
This is despite the police having made arrests at the school recently and the deputy school head indicating that police investigations were in full swing.
Efforts to solicit official comments from Matshekge hit a blank as the school management was incessantly locked up in a meeting at press time.