Discipline begins at school?

03 March 2014 | Bertha Phohlela | Opinion

One of the major challenges in the schools supported by the Epoch and Optima Trusts is learner apathy.

Photo courtesy of Chris Campbell

Learners are becoming more ill-disciplined, are not doing their homework, come in late, do not attend extra lessons, and are just not willing to go the extra mile. A general lack of discipline within the learners has created disorderly classrooms. When interviewed, some teachers described the classroom as a place with no peace.

Having asked teachers why discipline has now become a major problem, they all had one common answer: the community as a whole has lost discipline. Most of us drive while speaking on the phone, disregarding road laws; we check and respond to instant messages in meetings. Therefore, how would our youth have discipline when our society lacks it?

The lack of discipline in schools has led to more and more learners being expelled or suspended from school. This sometimes does more harm than good to an expelled learner, who may enjoy their “free” time and may use it in a destructive way. Consequently, social dynamics should be taken into consideration before there are harsh penalties on learners.

Some schools have found it worthwhile to have child psychologists, disciplinary officers and/or counsellors to make sure that they get to the cause of why learners are not behaving as expected. The teachers in schools that have these advantages have mentioned that this has ensured that  time is essentially spent on teaching and learning, as they do not have to spend time disciplining learners.

In addition, teachers believe this is useful as sometimes learners are just projecting some level of frustration from their home front and do not necessarily need punishment, but rather need help. For instance, in one school a learner who arrived late constantly due to the family dropping off a sibling at a crèche before coming to the school; the school counsellor was able to speak to the parents of this learner, and it was agreed that someone else could drop off the sibling.

In another school, a learner was not coping with a certain subject and became a class clown. Once they admitted to this to the psychologist, tutorials for assisting the learner concerned were arranged and the learner stopped disrupting the classroom.

The above are just a few success stories where discipline thrives; however, discipline must remain second nature to every teacher and parent. If the teacher is highly disciplined and comes in on time for lessons, and if parents also could practice a certain level of discipline and attend school meetings – the rest will follow.

The way our children behave and interact with each other in the classroom is a reflection of how society has become and for our children to really change, the community too has to change. Discipline begins at home.