I was shocked when I saw the video of a male pupil punching and beating a female pupil this week. I recognised the blue scotch uniform: that was Lyttelton Manor High School, our local high school where my little brother matriculated several years ago.
The angry boy looked as if he was beating another boy – but it was a girl in a skirt that was getting the punches. The way he kneed her in the chest, body-slammed her to the floor and punched her in the ribs reminded me of a mixed-martial arts match I watched on TV.
I was even more shaken when the Gauteng education department confirmed the girl had instigated the fight by attacking the boy. According to a social media user, who responded to my video, the girl allegedly even threw a brick at the boy. In the video, she is seen trying to fight back, grabbing onto the boy’s collar. But his strength easily overpowered hers.
“This was common at the school. The girls there used to do this in my day,” my little brother told me. “They felt they could start fights with boys and would provoke them. I think they felt the boys wouldn’t retaliate or they wouldn’t be touched because they are girls. But I wasn’t surprised by the video.”
I matriculated about 13 years ago. Not much violence was seen at my school. Yes, there was the occasional fight between the boys but the most shocking and trending altercation was a Grade 10 pupil who had slapped a science teacher.
The news travelled through the school in a matter of hours as we all wondered what gave this pupil the courage to raise her hand to one of the most ruthless, scariest teachers. The girl was immediately suspended but returned a week later.
But in recent years, we have heard more stories of pupils raping other pupils, stabbing each other, and even killing each other.
“In my days, teachers and pupils were respected,” my mother said. “Maybe it was because there was corporal punishment. But nowadays children face many challenges at home, social and peer pressures and influences from TV and social media. Some parents even ask us teachers to discipline their children because they fail themselves in doing so.”
She’s a teacher in Diepsloot, an informal settlement just outside Centurion. Teaching pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, she is challenged by assisting those who are drug users, swear at their teachers and parents in public, or those who look up to former convicts as role models.
“It’s strange that when we talk about prisons in class, they all have something to say about it. As if they have been there. But when we speak about something positive, they express no opinion,” my mother said. “I have noticed that some of these children face problems at home such as parents fighting and disrespecting each other in their presence.
“As a teacher, there is only so much we can do. We talk to them and try to counsel them but once they leave our classrooms, they turn into different people. They are no longer that sweet child you were counselling just moments ago.”
Are we such a damaged society that we raised damaged and aggressive children? What happened to the days of self-respect, positivity, motivation and confidence?
Are schools still a safe environment for our children?