/ 18 March 2011

Cosas: No link between ‘hit back’ comments and stabbing

There is no link between a pupil stabbing a teacher in Soweto and comments by the Congress of South Africa Students (Cosas) on pupil retaliation, the provincial congress said on Friday.

“No, there is no link between the incident and my comment that pupils should hit back at teachers who hit them,” Cosas provincial chairperson Ntsako Mogobe said.

“I never said you must violently assault teachers,” he said.

At a press briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday, Mogobe was quoted as saying: “We call on all students to fight fire with fire, when teachers hit you, you must hit back.”

He defended his statement, saying teachers were failing in their duty to teach.

Mogobe’s comment caused outrage and shock in the week, with many saying his words were an open invitation for pupils to use violence.

His statement came after South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) regional chairperson Moss Senye appeared at Meadowlands Magistrate’s Court on Monday for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old pupil last month at Meadowlands High School — where he is the principal.

Just a day after Mogobe’s comment, a 17-year-old boy stabbed his teacher in the stomach at a school in Soweto and was arrested hours later in Dobsonville.

He was set to appear in Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court on Friday facing a charge of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Mogobe described the incident as “a very serious criminal case”.

He would not, however, retreat on his stance that pupils should “fight fire with fire” when teachers hit pupils.

‘Completely unacceptable’
The department of basic education said on Friday it was very concerned about the stabbing, especially after Mogobe’s comment.

“There is no clear evidence of a link between the two … but the incident is very sad and completely unacceptable,” department spokesperson Granville Whittle said.

“Our concern as a department is for the safety of everyone in schools,” he said.

The incident occurred despite schools being weapon-free zones.

Whittle said the department could not monitor every situation as it was unable to place close-circuit television and metal detectors in all schools because of budget constraints.

“It comes down to working with unions, communities and parents to ensure we are able to deal with the underlying causes [of violence],” he said.

The department said it was open to proposals from unions on danger pay allowances in school.

This follows a call by Sadtu Gauteng secretary Ronald Nyathi a few days ago for teachers to receive danger pay because the occupation was a security risk.

“We have not received a proposal from any unions yet regarding this. Unions have raised the issues in the media … we are saying they must approach us as the department,” Whittle said. — Sapa