Vi­o­lence in schools re­mains a chal­lenge

Is cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment the so­lu­tion to dis­ci­pline?


COR­PO­RAL pun­ish­ment and vi­o­lence against teach­ers re­main a huge chal­lenge in South Africa. To ad­dress the is­sue, the School of Ed­u­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Kwa-Zulu-Natal re­cently hosted a col­lo­quium – “Cor­po­ral Pun­ish­ment Con­ver­sa­tions: Be­yond Hope­less­ness and Help­less­ness”.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the Hu­man Sci­ences Re­search Coun­cil and the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion, 20% of the coun­try’s teach­ers be­lieve that schools are vi­o­lent places and that their pupils and col­leagues at­tend school armed.

“Pupils have lost re­spect for adults and au­thor­i­tar­ian fig­ures. This leads to the loss of in­ter­est in ed­u­ca­tion,” said Ter­ence Poovan, a deputy prin­ci­pal who at­tended the col­lo­quium.

Many of the pupils’ at­ti­tudes, he added, are in­tol­er­a­ble.

“You try to talk to them and they don’t lis­ten and that’s where the con­fronta­tions be­tween pupils and teach­ers be­gin. Chil­dren, es­pe­cially those who are 18 and older, want to be treated like adults. They don’t want to be rep­ri­manded in front of younger pupils as they feel they don’t need to fol­low the rules.”

The com­mon fac­tor in this dis­turb­ing be­hav­iour in pupils, stems from sub­stance and al­co­hol abuse cou­pled with so­cial is­sues and a lack of re­spect, he said.

Poovan ex­plained that pupil be­hav­iour was in­flu­enced by chang­ing trends in tech­nol­ogy and sub­stance abuse, with some young­sters smok­ing cannabis at schools

“There is also al­co­hol abuse. Teenagers think it’s fine to con­sume al­co­hol on the school grounds,” he said.

So­cial is­sues im­pact­ing pupils in­cluded di­vorced or sep­a­rated par­ents, be­ing part of an ex­tended fam­ily or changes within the fam­ily struc­ture.

“Other ag­gra­vat­ing is­sues were child headed house­holds, abuse, and be­ing taken care of by grand­par­ents.

“There are what we call dys­func­tional fam­i­lies.”

He said many par­ents were also sub­sti­tut­ing love and at­ten­tion with ma­te­rial items, which had re­sulted in changes in at­ti­tude.

And with the pupil-teacher ra­tio of 1:45, teach­ers of­ten find them­selves hav­ing to play the role of a coun­sel­lor or par­ent and, in the process, be­come easy tar­gets.

South African Demo­cratic Teach­ers Union (SADTU) gen­eral sec­re­tary Mug­wena Maluleke said bring­ing back cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was not a so­lu­tion to pupils’ be­havioural is­sues.

“The so­lu­tion starts with par­ent­ing. Par­ents need to take their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties se­ri­ously when it comes to dis­ci­plin­ing their chil­dren and teach­ing them re­spect. We find chil­dren, who come from homes where they are dis­ci­plined, know they come to school to study with the vi­sion of one day serv­ing their com­mu­nity.”

The pres­i­dent-gen­eral of the Congress of South African Stu­dents (Cosas), John Macheke, said the vi­o­lent be­hav­iour of pupils was a re­sult of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment at the hands of teach­ers.

“We are to­tally against the use of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in schools but teach­ers con­tinue to use it in our class­rooms caus­ing pupils to be vi­o­lent in re­turn. Schools need to come up with other so­lu­tions to en­force dis­ci­pline; maybe use de­ten­tion as an op­tion.”

Macheke said teach­ers needed to also un­der­stand the back­grounds of pupils.

“Some come from bro­ken homes or abu­sive fam­i­lies, while oth­ers have been roped into gang­ster­ism in their own com­mu­ni­ties.

“They are sur­rounded by vi­o­lence and when they come to school and find the one adult, the teacher, who they be­lieve should show them love, act­ing against them, they be­come more vi­o­lent.”

Pupils have lost re­spect for adults and au­thor­i­tar­ian fig­ures. TERRENCE POOVAN DEPUTY PRIN­CI­PAL

Speak­ers Ayanda Khala-Phiri, left, Terry Md­luli Nd­abenhle and Ter­ence Poovan.

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