Big stick is not the way to teach

2011-07-30 15:43

Other options to corporal punishment can work if teachers, learners, parents and government honour their responsibility to education, experts say.

Commenting on the footage of a headmaster beating a grade 8 pupil with a hose pipe at Diversity High School, education ­specialists agree that teachers are thrown in the deep end to deal with rampant learner ill-discipline, with little or no support from other stakeholders.

They say discipline problems at schools are a reflection of larger social ills resulting from a history of violence, drug abuse, broken homes and poverty.

But Kobus Maree, an ­educational psychologist at the University of Pretoria, says teachers’ excuse that they feel disempowered by the abolition of corporal punishment is not good enough.

“We perhaps need to facilitate more emotional intelligence ­programmes for teachers to help them deal better with ill­discipline instead of taking out their frustration on learners.”

Maree says there is a need to start involving learners in ­decisions that affect them.

“We have also observed that when parents and teachers are involved in the education of their children, problems of ill-discipline are significantly ­reduced, making any form of punishment unnecessary.”

Layane Mabasa, an education expert from the University of Limpopo, says most alternatives to corporal punishment fail ­because they address symptoms instead of the root causes of learner ill-discipline.

According to him, we need to consider the environment in which schools are situated to understand the extent of the problem.

“Before we are to even ­mention teachers, we need to address the issue of shebeens next to schools and learners abusing drugs because these play a greater part in how learners behave at schools.

“We need educational psychologists and social workers to ­assist teachers in dealing with learner behavioural problems as teachers on their own cannot cope as they are not trained for that,” says Mabasa.

Maree and Mabasa agree on the need for a holistic approach that takes into consideration ­society, teachers and learners.

Graeme Bloch, an educational specialist from Wits, concedes that some learners are rowdy and hinder others from learning.

He says: “I don’t blame teachers who are frustrated when dealing with difficult learners, but resorting to violence cannot be encouraged as it is unlawful.

“There are other viable methods to address learner ­ill-discipline, but that requires ­parents and education ­departments to support teachers in implementing them.”

Bloch says it is not only ­township schools that have a culture of violence and
ill-discipline.

According to him, suburban and former Model C schools are experiencing similar problems.

“If anyone argues for ill-disciplined children to be beaten, then the same should be done with teachers who are not doing what they should be ­doing,” says Bloch.

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