Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
TEACHERS at Msiteli High School in Mpopoma suburb say they are living in fear of violent pupils gangs as some of them bring dangerous weapons to school to scare other learners.
Two weeks ago, the gangs fought running battles at the school resulting in the destruction of a section of the school pre-cast wall and window panes.
The gangs were fighting each other using dangerous weapons like catapults, stones and knobkerries.
Last week, police visited the school as well as Mpopoma and Sizane high schools in Pelandaba suburb and addressed learners about the ills of committing crime.
Teachers at Msiteli who spoke on condition of anonymity said the gangs have threated some teachers at the school.
“The gang members camp outside the school and as teachers dismiss you hear them talking that this is the one who beat me up yesterday. We blame the banning of corporal punishment as pupils no longer fear the school head and teachers as they know nothing will be done to them,” said one teacher.
The teacher said a number of teachers want to transfer from the school as they fear being harmed by the gangs who have created an environment which is not conducive for learning at the school.
One teacher is alleged to have transferred to another school in the past because of indiscipline and the gang violence at the school.
“Personally I am making plans to move to another school because I am afraid of what these gangs can do to me.
According to school rules, a child must be expelled after being black listed three times. Imagine if the violence that occurred at the school was the first, what next will they do? Definitely something bigger,” said another teacher.
The teacher said Government must revise laws on corporal punishment as they are contributing to indiscipline in schools.
Another teacher said bullying at the school was a big problem and learners are afraid to report to school authorities.
“For example, the bullies demand money from young learners and threaten them not to report the matter and they don’t report out of fear. Other learners are bringing weapons like catapult, baton sticks etc to school to scare others,” said the teacher.
The teacher also said the last violence which occurred two weeks ago was the worst the school has ever experienced.
It is alleged that one of the gang members’ young brother lost some sandals while swimming at Mpopoma swimming pool.
The teacher said the pupil told his brother and they concluded that other swimmers from Iminyela suburb who were among the swimmers were the culprits resulting in fights.
“It is really a cause for concern because after experiencing violence of that magnitude teachers are really starting to question their own safety. Although they are not the primary target it is not long before they are the target. The safety of the learners is in the hands of teachers when at school so once we involve ourselves, we will be attacked.
Teachers are becoming more and more reluctant to administer issues of discipline which has seen a rise in cases of lesson bunking and absenteeism,” said the teacher.
“This has been worsened by the banning of corporal punishment in schools which has left teachers at the mercy of the learners. It is also making it difficult for teachers to make follow ups on learners who don’t do their school work.
Prefects are also the target of these gangs hence their failure to execute their duties. The former head boy was once beaten up for carrying out his duties by some school leavers.”
The teacher further said the biggest problem is that learners report issues that affect them to unruly school leavers rather than school authorities which was a big concern to the teachers.
They also blamed drug peddlers.
“The issue of drugs is on the rise but there is not much that the teacher can do besides investigating the source and giving tip offs to police. The drug dealers are rarely arrested and they are still continuing with their business. It is also the issue of drugs that is at the center as some bullies demand money from young learners. Some of the gang members take the drugs inside school premises in places like toilets,” said the concerned teacher.
Teachers said while the violence is caused by boys, girls at the school are part of the problem.
“A Form Two pupil once brought beer at the school and some pupils stole it and she started causing commotion in class about her stolen beer.
“That is how it was discovered that she had brought beer in class. When asked she confessed that she takes beer and said even at home they know about it,” a teacher said.
When reached for a comment last week, Primary and Secondary Education ministry director of information and advocacy, Mr Taungana Ndoro said: “This is now a cancer and we are working flat out to flush the scourge.”