Making public schools work

Anjonet Jordaan -- Mon, 10/12/2015 - 09:49

Making public schools work

South African schools are often in the news for all the wrong reasons. One researcher from North-West University’s Vaal Triangle Campus, is seeking to change that. Prof Elda de Waal, education law researcher within the Optentia Research Focus Area, assists school principals and teachers to successful negotiate discipline at the schools they work.

Prof Elda de Waal

This project has been running four years now and through honest face-to-face discussion Prof De Waal guides those who seek her counsel to find a positive middle ground. Experience has taught her that in most cases there is “my side, your side, and the truth” – no one’s version of a situation is ever the absolute truth. Only when open, calm discussions take place are disciplinary and other issues resolved at schools.

The relationship between teaching staff and parents has become confrontational and Prof De Waal believes that part of the problem is unrealistic expectations by parents on what schools should be responsible to teach their children. In turn, teachers need to look beyond the limits placed on discipline by South African law. A balance must be struck between rights and responsibilities for teachers, pupils and parents.

Prof De Waal teaches how honours degree students and scores of postgraduate students she guided through their studies to successfully navigate situations in practice. To bring theory and practice together, she invited three of her former students who are vice-principals in the Vaal Triangle area to speak to the honours class about real situations they faced at the schools they work at. They discussed the negative media attention following a disciplinary incident and how they finally resolved the matter in a positive way. The discussion also included the perspective of someone who, as a school pupil, had a violent outburst against a teacher and faced the legal consequences. He provided students with the valuable insight about what could have been done differently to have prevented his actions.

Follow this link for more on what can be done in schools to ensure a better future for the youth of South Africa.