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Diffusing conflict in schools a challenge for educators

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Respectful social interaction, a facet of development that many assume to be second nature appears to be lacking within schools across the country as verbal abuse against educators and principals runs rapid. Last week, the principal of Tafelsig High School, in Mitchells Plain, was threatened by a learner and required five teachers to retrain the learner, after which the learner was escorted off the schools premises. The incident followed the heavily publicized incident of bullying, in which a minor threatens the life of another minor in a video that surfaced on social media.

Following the release of the video, commentators debated whether the minor learnt her behavior within her home environment or amongst her peers at school. Both incidents overwhelming called into question the role of parents in the development of their children.

Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, chairman of the Progressive Principals’ Association and principal at Spine Road High School, Riyaad Najaar explained that it remains a difficult situation in which teachers find themselves in, but that they are forced to deal with the matter.

Najaar says that given the fact that schools are meant to be safe havens for both learners and educators, schools need to employ extra-curricular activities in order to facilitate children who would otherwise be left to their own devices once schools close at the end of each day.

He notes that since teachers do not have the capacity to develop and facilitate extra-curricular activity, it is the duty of government to employ the services of specialists who can facilitate sport and extra-curricular activities after school.

“We need to lobby and continue requesting that we get assistance from parents, community organisations and government,” he stated.

When faced with pupils who are threatening assault, Najaar says that teachers need to deal with such incidents with utmost professionalism and not stoop to the level of the pupil.  He asserts that teachers need to speak to disruptive learners alone and not in front of their peers and that the teachers resolve matters without becoming emotionally involved.

“Stooping down to the level of the learner is going to create more conflict. We need to guard our choice of words when reprimanding a learner,” Najaar added.

While he understands that it is natural for teachers to “lose their cool”, he encourages teachers to remain calm and instead report the incident to the school body after attempting to resolve the matter.

“We have discovered that learners act out of frustration at home due their circumstances. So, we first see how we can win the learner over before we go the disciplinary measure.”

Najaar says that while a number of parents are in denial about the behaviour of their children, many parents are supportive of the role of educators in the development of their children.

“Those parents who are in denial when they are faced with the facts and they see what the child has been up to, unfortunately, they will have problems with their children even after school.”

Given the situation within school, he asserts that parenting classes should be mandatory for all parents, since children expose their problems once they enter the classroom.   VOC

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