Number of teachers assaulting learners is embarrassingly high – Motshekga

Eusebius McKaiser sat down with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to discuss the state of basic education in South Africa, the possibilities of making history a compulsory subject and the challenges her department is facing.

The minister said the system shows a healthy growth, that is on an upward trajectory, moving from a low base in the right direction.

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She added that the history of the ministerial task team originates from the ruling party’s resolutions of 2012.

[ANC] Conference wanted its deployees to look at the viability and possibilities of teaching history as a compulsory subject to all learners. But also to look at the relevance of the curriculum in instilling certain values like unity, cohesion, peace, and non-racialism.

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

She said there was a view shared that history shouldn’t just be about events.

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It should be about the country, in relation to the continent, in relation to themselves as individuals, the point of departure should be them.

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

My view, which is what the ministerial committee recommends, is that let’s work throughout time, allow ourselves to embed the subject into the system over a period of time, get the right topics and conversations, letting every child be exposed to history the way it has been conceptualised.

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

Not as a story of events and wars, but as a broader story about identity, about nationhood which I think every child needs.

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

Callers also spoke to the minister and weighed on the state of the system.

Mpho called in and asked the minister about the over two hundred complaints of physical and sexual abuse assaults by learners against teachers.

I want to know what the minister is doing to decrease these numbers. As an uncle who has a niece in primary school, I don’t know if I am comfortable letting my niece go to a public school where she might be assaulted sexually or physically by a teacher.

— Mpho, caller

The minister said the number of teachers convicted of assaulting learners is embarrassingly high for a sector such as education.

There are also high numbers of teachers who have been victims of assaults by learners. The violence that is in our society plays itself in our schools. But the people who have more responsibility for the safety of children will be teachers.

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

The minister says it is an exaggeration for anyone to say they are scared to send their child to public school.

The information that we have is not very usable for schools to be able to track that information which we get from justice. Because for us to know that a teacher has been convicted for sexual abuse or offence, the school’s need to get that information from the Justice [Department]

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

Motshekga said it is disturbing that you have paedophiles moving from one school to another and says they should all be held accountable for that happening.

Some of the cases don’t get into the justice system because they don’t go to court, she says.

It would be issues that have been addressed at the schools. There is an allegation of sexual harassment, it has not gone to court and there is enough prima facie evidence. While the kids would not want to open a case, they dismiss the teacher.

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

And the teacher with no court record can easily find another position in a new school.

And because there is no record, that says indeed there was a full court hearing saying indeed he has molested or harassed these kids he is able to go and apply at another school.

— Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister

She added that there needs to be a system that not only relies on the justice system but it should be compulsory for schools to have a registry that alerts other schools about teachers that have been dismissed because of sexual misconduct.

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