Right to a safe place to learn and work

Yesterday we told the heartbreaking story of a Port Elizabeth teacher who was physically attacked, allegedly by a 15-year-old grade 7 pupil at her school.

Alpha Primary School teacher Vera Jewell said she feared returning to school after the boy allegedly kicked her in the stomach and pushed her onto the desks when she confronted him during another alleged attack on a female pupil last week. Traumatised, Jewell said the boy had further taunted her, following her to her car with a pair of scissors in his hand.

Most shocking was that although the matter had been reported to the school, there appeared to be no urgency on the part of the principal to take the necessary action against it.

For days after the incident, the boy remained at school while Jewell was booked off for stress.

The details of the incident are under investigation by the school and education authorities.

However what is clear is that the alleged incident may not have been isolated.

According to Jewell, it is part of an escalating pattern of violent and abusive behaviour which may have been allowed to take root to the detriment of other, more vulnerable pupils.

Without understanding the personal circumstances of the accused teenager, it is difficult to understand the cause of his behaviour suffice to say that it is unacceptable irrespective of what his personal challenges may be.

While his right to education must be respected, it cannot be at the expense of the rights of other pupils and teachers to a safe environment, conducive to learning and work.

If the investigation determines that the pupil needs restorative measures of accountability, the education department must provide him with such.

However, this does not mean that he must not be held to account, in an appropriate manner, should he be found to have violated the rights of others.