Corporal punishment, outlawed under the Schools Act, is rife and schools are guilty of under-reporting it, says the South African Council of Educators.
“It is rife even though we conduct workshops throughout the country to conscientise educators,” said the council’s chief executive, Rej Brijraj.
“We have charged many educators for it, but it gets reported late, mostly when someone is injured. Schools never report it. Mostly we receive finalised reports from some provincial departments,” said Brijraj.
Corporal punishment came under the spotlight in the past few weeks after Soweto principal Moss Senye appeared in court on assault charges for allegedly caning a pupil (see sidebar).
The case prompted the Congress of SA Students’ provincial chairperson, Ntsako Mogobe, to call on pupils to hit back at teachers who beat them.
A day later, a teacher was stabbed at a school in Soweto.
Brijraj said Senye’s case was never reported to the council.
Nomusa Cembi, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union spokesperson, said the claim that the practice was widespread was “quite disturbing”.
“We don’t condone it, but the fact is the majority of teachers are from a generation that experienced corporal punishment.
“Therefore it may pop up here and there,” she said.
Cembi said the union would have to revisit the advocacy programmes it carried out when the department of education abolished corporal punishment.
Dr Sharon Mampane, education specialist at the University of Pretoria, said teachers experienced helplessness because they felt they had lost the authority to discipline learners.
“In black culture we believe in a little bit of spanking to instil discipline.
Teachers are frustrated because they feel detention is not enough as a learner may choose not to do their homework because they only get detention,” she said.
“Teachers should follow the policy and try alternative measures – detention, informing parents and giving learners more tests as punishment,” she said.