IOL 14 June 2019

Johannesburg – The Department of Basic Education said although it was concerned by escalating violence at schools, it rejected calls for teachers to be armed with firearms at schools, following the shooting of a teacher at a Durban school this week.

The Educators Union of South Africa had made the call after 48-year-old teacher Sibonakaliso Nyawose was gunned down on the Masuku Primary school premises on Tuesday. The union said the teacher would have been able to defend himself had he been armed.

DBE said it did not recognise the union in the education sector.

Nyawose’s murder was one of the few incidents of violence aimed at educators in the country as there was also a viral video which showed another teacher, Ajibabi Sunday, being allegedly assaulted by a pupil at the Luthayi High School in Hammarsdale, west of Durban.

Elijah Mhlanga, a DBE spokesperson, said the call for teachers to be armed was “irresponsible, reckless and dangerous”.

“This can only escalate the violence that is already causing huge distress among our teachers, learners and the community in general. The union that has called for teachers to be armed is not a recognised union in the basic education sector,” said Mhlanga.

The national department’s rebuttal echoed a concern raised by KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu, who rejected the call and said suggestion would complicate an already volatile situation.

Mhlanga said the department was concerned about escalating violence involving teachers and pupils.

“The violence has left both learners and educators deceased, others injured, and perpetrators facing lengthy jail terms. The majority of cases we observed indicate that unresolved issues led to the violent attacks. Furthermore, the attacks have widely occurred outside school premises. We have also observed the rise in gang-related activity involving learners and violent incidents ending in unnecessary loss of life,” he said.

Last week, a pupil was stabbed to death at Forest High School in Turrfontein when pupils brawled in a reportedly gang-related matters.

“The department strongly condemns any form of violence, including bullying in schools,” said Mhlanga.

Offering solutions, Mhlanga said the department had embarked on a number of initiatives to arrest the spiraling violence that has often led to fatalities. Among the initiatives, was engaging the SAPS to intensify random patrols and teach learners the importance of self-discipline and responsibility, respect for self.

“In many such procedures, police confiscated weapons and drugs found in possession of learners. Disciplinary action is immediately taken against offending learners and the parents are called in,” it said.

It said it was deeply concerned that despite the measures in place, it appears that the anti-violence strategy is not yielding any results and urged all stakeholders to play their part.

“Crime prevention and the teaching of positive values and morals require a joint effort from all stakeholders, as the violent tendencies are not just a direct influence, but emanate from society.”

Furthermore, the department urged parents to assist it with maintaining learner discipline through regular dialogue with learners, regular engagement with educators, checking of school bags and ensuring that learners are in school on a daily basis.

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