Pupils still hit at school

2014-05-21 00:00

SCHOOL teachers are coming under the whip in KwaZulu-Natal for their total disregard of the ban on corporal punishment.

A Pietermaritzburg teacher faces disciplinary action after it was discovered that she still uses corporal punishment to punish pupils, years after it was abolished.

Angry parents confronted the Grade  8 teacher at the Ngcedomhlophe High School in Mafakatini, near Mpophomeni, on Friday last week, alleging the teacher had beaten more than 70 children.

It is alleged that in one incident before the Easter holidays, the teacher assaulted pupils in her classroom with an open hand, and last week with a pipe.

“They were given about four lashes on the hand as punishment for making a noise last week when they played with perfume in class while she was teaching,” said a source.

The source said on Friday there was a heated exchange between the parents, the school principal and teachers, with parents demanding the teacher stop abusing the children.

“My child no longer enjoys going to school. She is not enthusiastic about school like she used to be and we fear she may drop out if this continues,” said one parent.

The source said the teacher admitted that what she had done was wrong and apologised to the family, promising not to do it again.

“It was hard for the teacher to admit she did wrong but it emerged that this was one incident among many that the principal did not know about.”

On Wednesday last week at Umlazi Comprehensive Technical High School, a school that achieved a 100% pass rate, a teacher was seen at the gate using a stick to beat latecomers, a witness said.

Bongani Tembe, who was visiting the school, questioned them about this and threatened that he would report the matter to the Education Department.

“I was angry to see them beating pupils while corporal punishment is outlawed. As I was trying to get pictures they stopped and all the pupils were allowed into the school,” said Tembe.

Tembe voiced his anger by posting the photo and comments on his Facebook page.

School principal Lucky Luthuli said this was against school policy.

“We encourage teachers not to use corporal punishment,” said Luthuli, who refused to provide contact details for the teacher involved.

Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said corporal punishment was outlawed years ago by the South African Schools Act.

“This simply means teachers are not allowed to use it and it is a punishable offence.

“Therefore anyone who has any evidence in that regard must come forward to the department, and the department will take necessary action. If the teacher is found guilty it can lead to dismissal,” said Mlotshwa.

He said parents should approach the district offices in Jabu Ndlovu (Loop) Street in Pietermaritzburg, and at Truro House in Durban.

A column by human rights lawyer Faranaaz Veriava in the Mail & Guardian cited data from Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey, which revealed that nearly 16% of pupils (some 2,2 million individuals) were on the receiving end of corporal punishment in school in 2012.

KwaZulu-Natal, according to the Statistics South Africa data, is the province with the second highest prevalence of corporal punishment at schools.

Veriava also cited a 2006 South African Human Rights Commission report into violence at schools that showed nearly 60% of teachers supported a return of corporal punishment because of how threatened they felt in their work environment.

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