Humiliation led to her months of hell
Be it an alleged single act of violence, continuous humiliation or other forms of derogation by a teacher, the impact on a schoolchild can be devastating.
Eighteen-year-old Boni (not her real name), who is preparing for her matric exams at a well-known Uitenhage school, was 16 and in grade 10 two years ago when an incident in the classroom was the beginning of months of hell.
“I remember that day and the months after as if it happened yesterday – how the schoolchildren used to tease me and how I lost myself,” she said.
“It was the second week of the first term, just a few days after my birth- day. I had received a phone from my parents and wanted to show off to my classmates.” Boni said the accounting teacher had walked in and shouted because of the noise which had erupted in class. “I was blamed for causing the chaos. I had to admit I was wrong, but she [teacher] continued to shout at me, uttering spiteful comments.” Boni said during the lesson, the teacher asked a question and pointed at her to answer, and when she couldn’t, the teacher ridiculed her.
“I explained to her it was my first time doing accounting and I did not understand yet, but she went on and on about how I would end up being nobody and a bad influence.
“I felt small and needed to defend my self so I told her that what she thought of me was her problem and when I fully understood the lesson I would have the answers,” she said.
Boni claimed the teacher had got upset because she had talked back and slapped her. “I still remember the laughter of my classmates. To save myself further embarrassment, I went out and cried.”
Boni said the pupil representative council had been informed of what happened but when she was called to the principal’s office she had been told to change her behaviour.
“I wanted to tell my parents straight after school, but I knew that it would cause drama for me,” she said.
Boni said this was because in her household a person who had a qualification – like a teacher – could never be wrong.
“Besides, I was only a 16- year-old,” she said. Boni explained how every day she had developed a hatred and attitude towards school, with the teacher continuing to make fun of her in front of her classmates.
“It was the first time I studied accounting and I was excited about it but [the teacher] to- tally crushed my spirit. “She had a way of making me feel small. I remember how she made me feel invisible in class.
When she posed a question and I raised my hand she would ignore me. “With everything happening, I had no choice but to suck it in. What made things worse was listening to a teacher telling you that at the end of the day, they were getting paid on the 20th [of the month] – whether we passed or failed didn’t matter.”
Boni said she had started to resent the teacher and soon hated all the school’s teaching staff.
“All I wanted was that she acknowledge what she did to me was wrong and apologise. I longed for her to say ‘I’m sorry’. “I couldn’t understand her attitude towards me. Yes, I was wrong – I contributed to the noise, I could have kept quiet when she made fun of me.
But she was a teacher and an adult. [It was wrong] for her to continue to belittle me, make fun of me and demoralise me. “I would never understand why she had to slap me... “At school, I was labelled ‘the one who was slapped.” Boni urged the department of education to make programmes available for teachers to engage them on child behaviour at school.
“We can never change that learners have attitude and often at times misbehave, but if there can be programmes for teachers to learn how to deal with such behaviour the abuse would be less.”
Boni said many pupils suffered in silence when they were belittled in class out of fear of more humiliation.