When teachers are bullied

When it comes to bullying in schools, we often think of students being the victims. However several incidents of violence against teachers have been reported in the South African media in recent years. Cell phone videos of teachers being bullied by students reveals just how serious the situation is, with bystanders often cheering the bully on. Educational Psychologist Marinda Botha explains how teachers can protect themselves against bullying. 
Strict disciplinary codes to address bullying in schools have led to learners being expelled. In some cases the students have ended up with criminal records over violent behaviour.  And yet, teachers are still leaving the profession over safety concerns.  The Teachers Union (SADTU) has even suggested that teachers receive danger pay to compensate them for the dangers they have to face at work. 
For information on how teachers can stop bullying, click here.
Case in point is Mr Mauritz Jacobs, an Afrikaans and technology teacher at Glenvista High School, who experienced assault from a Grade 8 learner in 2013. If not for a video of the incident being placed on YouTube, he believes it would not have been addressed in the way that it was. He received support from the school and Gauteng Department of Education and the Grade 8 learner was suspended. Since then Jacobs has resigned from the school. He is now supporting other teachers who have suffered similar acts of violence. 
As a teacher you can protect yourself against bullying by:
  • Making sure that your school has a policy with regards to discipline, bullying and violence that protects all innocent parties and has clear steps set out that you can follow should a violent incident occur.
  • Staying professional and never retaliating when a learner becomes violent or bullies you.
  • Removing yourself and other learners from any dangerous or potentially dangerous situation.
  • Reporting these incidents to the school management immediately. 
  • Keeping records of such incidents with dates, times, names of all involved parties and possible eye witnesses.
  • Remembering that you are allowed to turn to the police for help and open an assault case.
  • Making use of the video footage from your school’s surveillance cameras. 

A study conducted by UNISA on the dynamics of violence in South African schools indicated that the exposure to such violence could have serious physical, emotional and psychological implications for both teachers and learners, leading to possible barriers to learning. This highlights the importance of addressing violence in schools vigilantly. 
Do you experience violence in your school and if so how is this being addressed?
 If your child is a bully or if your child is being bullied we've got some tips for you on how to deal with this.