Sunday Times

Re­sort­ing to the rod ‘rooted in apartheid’

- By SUTHENTIRA GOVEN­DER Crime · Society · KwaZulu-Natal · The Sunday Times · University of KwaZulu-Natal

● SA’s cul­ture of vi­o­lence is fu­elling at­tacks by pupils on teach­ers and mak­ing some teach­ers re­sort to the out­lawed cane.

This was among con­cerns that emerged at a three-day dis­cus­sion hosted by the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Na­tal’s school of ed­u­ca­tion this week. Par­ents, teach­ers, prin­ci­pals and aca­demics spoke about cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment and vi­o­lence against teach­ers.

SA Coun­cil of Ed­u­ca­tors spokesper­son Them­binkosi Ndhlovu told the Sun­day Times the coun­cil had been no­ti­fied of 253 cases of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment for 2017/2018.

Ndhlovu said that re­cently a Lim­popo teacher has been charged for us­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment and that the pupil suf­fered se­vere in­juries and had needed surgery.

The dis­cus­sion was held to cre­ate a “non­con­fronta­tional space to share ex­pe­ri­ences and per­spec­tives about cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment” and speak about school vi­o­lence.

“In­sti­tu­tions of learn­ing have nei­ther been ex­empt nor es­caped vi­o­lent ex­pres­sions and, wor­ry­ingly, are per­ceived as re­flect­ing a so­cial order where vi­o­lence is nor­malised.

“Twenty-one years af­ter the ban­ning of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment, phys­i­cal vi­o­lence can­not be used to dis­ci­pline pupils,” the de­part­ment of ed­u­ca­tion said in a state­ment.

Nd­abenhle Md­luli, a high school prin­ci­pal, said that while cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment had been out­lawed in 1996 “what is trou­bling is that cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment has re­fused to leave the class­room for more than two decades”.

“A 2015 Sta­tis­tics SA sur­vey re­vealed that KwaZulu-Na­tal and East­ern Cape schools topped the list at 21% each, for chil­dren who at­tended schools where they still ex­pe­ri­enced cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment. Why do we have such shock­ing sta­tis­tics?”

Md­luli be­lieves cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment is rooted in apartheid.

“Some­times state­ments are made which carry racial un­der­tones. Such as ‘you can’t teach a black child with­out us­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment’.

“This is be­cause we have ac­cepted vi­o­lence as the lifeblood of our so­ci­ety. Some be­lieve that cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment still be­longs in the class­room and that it should be used as a last re­sort,” he said.

While cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was the main thread of the dis­cus­sion, the is­sue of teach­ers be­ing vic­tims of at­tacks, both ver­bal and phys­i­cal, also came un­der the spot­light.

A teacher, Ter­ence Poovan, who was a vic­tim of threats from a trou­ble­some pupil, said vi­o­lence against teach­ers “has re­ceived lim­ited at­ten­tion”.

Poovan quoted a re­cent re­search study that found about 25% of teach­ers in high schools had been ex­posed to phys­i­cal at­tacks, in­clud­ing ob­jects thrown at them, and phys­i­cal con­fronta­tions.

“The re­search also in­di­cates that one in four teach­ers are afraid of vi­o­lence at the hands of pupils,” Poovan said.

Poovan be­lieves that at the heart of the is­sue is the preva­lence of vi­o­lence in com­mu­ni­ties and young peo­ple hav­ing lost re­spect for adults and au­thor­ity.

This is be­cause we have ac­cepted vi­o­lence as the lifeblood of our so­ci­ety

Nd­abenhle Md­luli High school prin­ci­pal

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