Teachers’ unions have welcomed the new conditions for the employment of teachers gazetted by Basic Education Minister (DBE) Angie Motshekga. However, some unions have said that some offenses should be moved from the indefinite dismissal categories – a lifetime ban from teaching – towards a more restorative justice.
New regulations were published in the government gazette by Motshekga on Friday, last week under the Employment of Educators Act and were released this week on Tuesday.
The new rules and conditions for the employment of educators outline the range of sanctions for various categories of teacher misconduct. The sanctions range from one year for what is considered light misconduct to a lifetime ban.
The misdeeds range from murder, sexual misconduct, having a sexual relationship with learner and sexual harassment to theft, bribery, drug use and possession as well as corruption.
According to the gazette, teachers found guilty of theft, bribery and corruption will be banned for five years and can re-apply for their jobs afterwards, having proved that they are rehabilitated.
Those found guilty of serious crimes including sexual harassment and misconduct will be permanently dismissed and will not be taken back by the department.
“Any teacher who is found guilty of committing an act of sexual assault on a learner, student or other employees or having a sexual relationship with a learner of the school will be shown the door and not rehired,” said Motshekga.
Executive Director for the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) Basil Manuel said the union supported some of these new rules and conditions, but the union believes some people can rehabilitate.
Manuel said Naptosa advocates for limiting the period of punishment.
“Say a person smacked a youngster in the heat of the moment. And that person has been found guilty and eventually dismissed. Now, should that person be prevented from coming back forever?
“We say no. There must be a period which this person serves where they are completely out of the school. But after having gone to a place where they can prove they have been assisted with dealing with anger management, they should be allowed to return.
Manuel said the gazette allows teachers who were dismissed for physically abusing children to return to teaching after four years.
“They will have to re-apply for teaching posts and will not necessarily return to the same school,” said Manuel.
However, if a teacher commits a sexual offense against a child, or a person that is mentally incapacitated, that may be an adult but is classified as a child, it will be that the person can never come back into the classroom, said Manuel.
He explained that the gazetted rules allow teachers to reapply for teaching five years after they have committed fraud.
But there are other rules in which Naptosa is not in agreement.
Manuel said the gazette also advocated the lifetime ban on teachers found to be using illegal substances such as drugs.
“The use of illegal substances such as drugs has been categorised under unforgivable misdeeds. And we know with drugs – people go into rehab and they get sorted – we are asking whether this should be moved from the indefinite section [the lifetime ban] to a lesser sentence,” said Manuel.
We simply cannot condemn people forever. This is why we say we will go through the gazette very carefully, he said.
He added that Naptosa is about restorative justice. That the union wants people to be able to rehabilitate.
The regulations also outline the procedure to rehire some of the teachers.