Corporal punishment still in schools

Johannesburg – Corporal punishment is still common in South African schools even though it was banned more than a decade ago.

Recent research showed that up to 70% of primary school and 50% of high school pupils were still subjected to corporal punishment.

Gerhard Olivier, vice-principal of the Eendracht Primary School in Pretoria, was recently awarded his Master's degree at the University of Pretoria. He did research on teachers' perceptions of corporal punishment and the reasons why they still administered it even though it is against the law.

Six teachers who administered corporal punishment at three Pretoria schools with different cultural backgrounds were involved in the study.

The study showed that teachers were well-informed about the consequences should they administer corporal punishment. They felt, however, it was acceptable if done reasonably.

They were frustrated and believed corporal punishment was an effective way of maintaining discipline in over-crowded classrooms. Many still viewed it as an effective "classroom aid".

The research showed some of the teachers didn't think other methods of discipline were as successful as corporal punishment. Some of them had tried other methods but had limited success with them.

Teachers also believed the department's poor support on how alternatives for corporal punishment should be applied, contributed to the ineffectiveness of these methods.

They claimed the abolishment of corporal punishment was forced on them too quickly while they were not trained in other methods. The teachers said they were not consulted when corporal punishment was scrapped in schools.

The teachers said they had over the past decades done many workshops, seminars and training sessions but seldom received information on different methods of disciplining children.

The main reasons why teachers still administered corporal punishment, appeared to be difficult to control, over-crowded class rooms. Language problems were also cited as reasons.

Apart from these, poor morale under teachers, limited work satisfaction and high stress levels made efficient teaching and learning impossible.

Teachers were convinced that corporal punishment educated children, improved the quality of teaching and academic achievement.

The study found that although corporal punishment damaged the rights of pupils, the practice continued because many teachers saw it as the only way to maintain discipline.

Olivier in his research pointed to another South African study done between 2003 and 2006 under pupils of 16 and older in which was found 51% had received corporal punishment from a teacher or principal.

Olivier said he regularly encountered the view that corporal punishment should be brought back. He believed teachers should accept that it would never again be legalised.

His recommendation was that smaller classrooms and acceptable alternatives for corporal punishment that were realistic to teachers' working conditions were looked at.


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