It was 'pure brutality', yet others see 'nothing wrong' – ex-Paarl Boys' High pupils on corporal punishment claims

2019-03-07 17:46
Paarl Boys High School (Jenni Evans)

Paarl Boys High School (Jenni Evans)

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Many parents and past pupils have told News24 that allegations of corporal punishment at Paarl Boys' High are true, while other have jumped to the school's defence, following a report published by News24 on Thursday.

Comments on social media have also indicated that there is still support for this outlawed method of discipline.

"Yes, I experienced the plank, twisting of ears, [and] so forth," said a former pupil by email.

"Look, the school is really good. Turned me into the man I am today, HOWEVER, what he used to do was [and] is not good," he wrote. 

News24 earlier revealed that Richard Visagie, the head of discipline at the school, had been given a final warning last year for misconduct, as well as a fine by the Western Cape Education Department's labour relations unit.

This was after an investigation into a corporal punishment allegation against him.

READ: Corporal punishment claims rock Paarl Boys' High School

The department had also received a complaint from a doctor who had treated a pupil, and other complaints, but was stymied by parents and pupils not wanting to reveal their identity for fear of being isolated.

This emerged during a request for comment after News24 was told about allegations of multiple instances of corporal punishment at the well-known school known as "Boishaai".

'He is lying'

A former pupil said he was hit by Richard Visagie in 2012, along with half the grade that day, for not having "a little register with me" which had not been needed that day.

"If [school principal Derek] Swart told News24 that 'there is no corporal punishment', then he is lying. He was well aware of it and it's frequency," the pupil wrote.

READ: You can say no to corporal punishment 

Said another past pupil: "Being hit on the head with a fist or cane, five stars, fist to the chest, caning inside what used to be called his dungeon back then was as much part of the day as was breathing."

He too spoke of the school's high standards and said that, although there were times when he needed discipline, at other times "it was just pure brutality".

He recalled a time when he was sent off the rugby field in tears when Visagie taunted him over what his late father would have thought of his performance. 

School principal Derek Swart denied the claims of corporal punishment when interviewed by News24 and asked people to report incidents so that they could be investigated.

School response 

On Thursday, the school posted a statement on its Facebook page, noting that the story had been published, and saying that it would look into the claims. 

"We take note this morning's report on News24's social media. The allegations are being handled with the necessary seriousness.

"[Paarl Boys High School] is and remains a school with happy children who proceed to become boys who send high moral values into the world. The comments and feedback of visitors and parents attest to this and parents often fight tooth and nail for a placing for their children at Boys' High.

"Many thanks to all the Boys High families' unbelievable support worldwide." 

In follow-up questions to the headmaster and the School Governing Body, chairperson Ritz De La Bat said complaints against employees of the WCED, when received by us, are handed over to the WCED to investigate and act upon.

"You can either send us the specific complaints to pass on to the WCED or you can send it directly to them. We confirm that we have not received any specific complaints."

Corporal punishment debate

The school received praise for its high standard of discipline and rows of blue hearts on its Facebook page, with a few exceptions.

The topic of whether to smack or not to smack also led to two camps in heated comments on social media, with many saying that the abolition of corporal punishment was to blame for falling standards and violence at schools. 

One wrote on News24's Facebook page: "Corporal punishment is what raised me to be the responsible and respectful man I am today. I still called my teachers Sir/Ma'am when I meet them. And I still have full respect for them. The learners nowadays beat and swear at teachers just because there is no punishment harsh enough to bring them to their place."

Another wrote: "I have two sons going through Boishaai......BEST school for bois and will do it all over again....today they are two humble, proud and repectful young adults. Mr Visagie we salute you....you know the bois behavoir in and out and you always showed compasion for all their needs..... [sic]".

"Nothing wrong with "six of the best" - bring back corporal punishment!" wrote another News24 reader, indicating the controversy surrounding this method of discipline.

The WCED said it had no further comment at this stage.

Earlier, it condemned corporal punishment and said it was investigating the allegations against Visagie.

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Read more on:    paarl boys high  |  cape town  |  education
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