Concern about corporal punishment at schools

Date: 18 September 2017   Read: 22973

Mpho Manyikana, labour relations officer at Imatu’s Tshwane Metropolitan & Limpopo Regional Office, writes:

I wish to register my greatest dismay over the escalating cases of corporal punishment meted out to learners by their teachers at school. Day in and day out we watch video clips of teachers hitting learners with various objects at schools. This not only unacceptable, but is also unlawful.

Corporal punishment was abolished as far back as 1997, but to date there are those teachers who think they can break the law and get away with it. I have it on good authority that at some schools, the school governing bodies and/or the parents have given the teachers permission to corporally punish the learners. This is also wrong. No parent is allowed to mete out corporal punishment on his/her child and therefore, what right does a parent have to allow any other person to mete out corporal punishment on his/her child? Gone are those days when parents can hit and beat their children in the name of chastisement.

I know and understand that our kids can be very naughty or stubborn, but that does not give anyone the right to punish them corporally. Many a time I have heard children from the school in my village (Ha-Makhitha / Madaheni) complaining about being hit by their teachers at school. These kids are afraid of reporting these incidents because it is said that their parents have given the teachers permission to beat them up. Some are afraid of being made to fail if they report these criminal activities.

I do not agree with the views of those parents who think they have the right to give permission to the teachers to beat up the children. There are many ways in which a troublesome or disobedient learner can be punished, other than corporally. I cannot stand by or turn a blind eye when teachers physically punish learners at school; and I also cannot support parents who think it is right for children to be beaten by their teachers. It is simply against the law and I wish to specifically put it on record that I shall not hesitate to expose any teacher who beats up a learner and shall ensure that the said teacher is criminally prosecuted.

I know that this piece shall not sit well with many people, but I am not bothered thereby. Maybe a little lecture on what the law says on corporal punishment is necessary:

The Bill of Rights as contained in The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act No. 108 of 1996, enshrines the rights of everyone to be free from all forms of violence, from either public or private source; not to be tortured in any way and not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman and degrading way.

Section 10 (1) of the South African Schools Act, provides that “No person may administer corporal punishment at a school to a learner.”

Circular 65 0f 1999 issued by the Gauteng Department of Education explains that “Corporal punishment is not just about caning, but also refers to an assault on a person in any manner whatsoever. It also refers to violent shaking, torture, kicking, pinching, pulling of ears, poking with a finger, using a stick/cane/belt or any object designed to threaten learners, or any other physical act which may cause discomfort to the learner.” This explanation is not limited to schools in Gauteng,  but also applies in other provinces as well.

Section 10 (2) of the South African Schools’ Act provides that “Any person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a sentence which could be imposed for assault.”

Teachers who still apply corporal punishment at schools must know that, besides facing disciplinary action by the department of education, they may also face criminal prosecution, or even face a delictual (civil) claim by the learner assaulted, either for personal injury sustained during the application of corporal punishment, or for impairment of dignity, amongst others.



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