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.