A parent’s perspective

Colin Jooste, Observatory

One month into the new school year and a major upset in a classroom becomes the talking point on social media, radio and the print media (“‘Slap’ teacher faces discipline”, Tatler, February 7).

This very unsavoury situation is anchored in the absence of good old-fashioned obedience and respect for teachers. That is the bottom line.

Centuries ago a wise man said: “Woe unto those who are with child in these perilous times!”

He referred to one child; what about the poor teacher who has to put up with 30 and more children in a class. One cannot even begin to imagine how traumatic it must be for a young teacher whose mandate it is to teach a subject, to start a lesson before learners settle down, only to be interrupted by a pupil who shows scant regard for the rest of the class who wants to work. Good manners by the way ought to be taught at home. I taught a school choir for a few years and was forced to tell the habitual trouble-makers “I can teach you music but I cannot teach you good manners – that you have to learn at home.”

Teachers need to be protected against unmannerly children. Teaching is no longer a profession that gets the respect it deserves.

When we misbehaved at school during the 50s, 60s and 70s we were reprimanded and depending on the severity of our transgression, we were given six of the best by the principal with a cane on our hindquarter – the girls got it on their hands. And lo and behold if we dared complain to our parents. We were belted because they believed we had brought their good name into disrepute and that the teacher would not resort to punishment had we not deserved it.

So, here we are decades later – good, law-abiding citizens, the products of parents and teachers who “abused” us. Clearly the cane had its desired effect on us.

School-going children are protected by laws that have been promulgated and so they do as they please knowing that the poor teacher is governed by a long list of “Thou shalt not”.

Since the use of the cane has been abolished a litany of abuse against teachers have been the order of the day. And so has crime escalated in schools.

Having spent many years on various school bodies and the last six as chairman of a school governing body, I have had first-hand experience of teachers being bullied and even assaulted by pupils. I have listened to some horrendous accounts of what happens in the classroom. Things have become so bad that teachers want out. They apply for teaching posts abroad where their remuneration is more than double and working conditions much better or they just simply find an ordinary nine-to-five job.

When I was at school in the 50s we had an idiomatic expression in one of our textbooks: “So dronk soos ‘* kleurling onderwyser!” To be sure those teachers resorted to the bottled vine because of overcrowded classrooms and a myriad of other reasons, gutter education being one of them.

We must therefore not be surprised if we find our current army of teachers attending Alcoholics Anonymous!