Various stakeholders believe that a recent incident in which a teacher was assaulted at Moshupa Senior Secondary School reflects the growing violence against teachers in schools occasioned by students. Stakeholders also believe that there has to be an urgent and serious dialogue with reference to curbing the growing violence against teachers in schools. Mmegi Staffer CHAKALISA DUBE follows developing story
FRANCISTOWN: The Moshupa incident went viral on social media. Although there are no readily available figures, the Botswana Sectors for Educators Union (BOSETU) says the overall safety of teachers in schools has been waning significantly over the years. One of the recent instances of violence against teachers happened at Madiba Senior Secondary School and Mmadinare Senior Secondary School.
In a nutshell, the learning environment in public schools has for sometime been characterised by violent attacks on teachers by students in schools. For example, a teacher escaped death by a whisker in 2011 at Mmei Junior Secondary School after he was brutally stabbed with a sharp instrument by three learners. 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 2013, Matsheng Junior Secondary School in Sojwe village teachers miraculously escaped unharmed after the police intercepted a gun-totting student. He was allegedly on his way to shoot his teachers. The student was reportedly angry at school authorities after he was suspended from school for “misbehaving.”
Another incident that highlighted the danger teachers face in classrooms happened in June 2004. A Lentswe Secondary School School teacher, Baraedi Lekabe was left blind in one eye after a student beat him with an iron rod. He had accompanied students to Artesia for sports games.
He was later awarded P72, 000 as compensation by the Department of Public Service Management. To date, he says it remains unclear why the student attacked him.
In an interview with Mmegi this week, BOSETU secretary general Tobokani Rari called on the government to urgently come up with strong measures that would ensure the safety of teacher in public schools.
Rari said violence in schools was brought about by a myriad of factors including inter alia, the collapse of the moral fibre in society, the non – functional guidance and counselling units in schools owing to negligence by government. Rari said that restricted corporal punishment has also heightened instances of ill-discipline in public schools.
“We want a relaxed but regulated form of corporal punishment in schools. We believe to some extent corporal punishment can help address issues of indiscipline in schools. Under its current form, corporal punishment is over-regulated because
Rari added: “There have been instances where teachers made mistakes when administering corporal punishment (after being delegated by the head teacher). They were then taken to court. In those instances, the government did not give them representation in court. This has resulted in many teachers being reluctant to undertake corporal punishment at all.”
According to Rari, changing family patterns and other domestic challenges have also led to a breakdown of family structures which has led to a weakening of discipline among young people.
Rari also said that the government should also release findings of the 2015 Kgosi Gaborone Commission. The commission went around the country to find out about a wide range of social ills and their causes.
“ If publicised the findings of the commission can help various stakeholders to understand the extent and cause of social ills in our society and by extension schools. Stakeholders will then be able to help government come with solid measures meant to curb violence in schools based on the recommendations made by the commission,” Rari said.
Drugs and intoxicating substances have also made their way into schools in high volumes according to BOSETU. Rari believes that this has also contributed towards the growing instances of violence towards teachers.
“Guidance and counseling systems in schools have totally collapsed. You will find that the school has two guidance and counseling teachers but having around 2000 learners. This ultimately means that teachers cannot handle such a high number of learners. In some instances, qualified guidance and counseling teachers have been made to teach different subjects,” he said.
Dr. Kgomotso Jongman, a community practice and youth specialist with the University of Botswana (UB) believes that there has to be serious dialogue around factors surrounding the behaviour of learners in schools
“ It is very evident that learners have become very problematic towards teachers. Without serious dialogue the trend will not go away. Various stakeholders now have to sit down and dialogue over measures that can help address the behaviour of learners in schools,” said Jongman.
Jongman attributed the growing number of violence in schools to drugs, influence from the social media and parents who have neglected parenting duties. Following the Moshupa incident the Ministry of Basic Education also release a statement indicating that it would start taking stern action against non-disciplined learners in schools.