Corporal punishment practised in Limpopo, especially by older teachers

19 May 2021 - 15:27 By ernest mabuza
Corporal punishment still happens at some schools in Limpopo, especially among older teachers. Stock photo.
Corporal punishment still happens at some schools in Limpopo, especially among older teachers. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/prazis

More than 20 years after corporal punishment was outlawed, teachers are still practising it at schools.

This was the submission made by Mamahlodi Masipa, child protection manager at Save the Children in Limpopo, to an SA Human Rights Commission hearing on bullying, corporal punishment and sex between educators and pupils at schools in Limpopo.

Masipa said the non-profit organisation, in separate interactions with pupils and teachers, also found that there was a lot of bullying happening in schools. She said apart from corporal punishment, gangsterism was rife, there was substance abuse, sexual harassment and abuse at schools.

“Bullying is at the top of the list and teachers are continuing to use corporal punishment,” she said.

Masipa said in their interactions with teachers, it seemed there was not a lot of training of educators in terms of positive discipline. She said teachers explained why they practised corporal punishment, even though it was unlawful.

“We find that usually educators post-1994 are sort of accepting of the fact that corporal punishment is not part of the way they should discipline children.

“But people who became educators before 1994 find themselves using corporal punishment because — this is the information we get directly from the teachers — this is what they had known all along.”

Masipa said teachers said corporal punishment tended to be something that quickly solved the issue happening at the time. She said positive discipline was a long-term solution.

She did not, however, have statistics to indicate how prevalent bullying and corporal punishment was in Limpopo.

The commission's senior legal officer, Dr Eileen Carter, said she knew corporal punishment was still happening but added what could stop it was if the commission could be pointed to areas where it was happening.

Masipa said information about the prevalence of corporal punishment and bullying was obtained from teachers and pupils the organisation interacted with in the province.

“We have selected areas we are operating from. When we visit those schools, they say the same thing. It was not a survey, it came up as we were engaging with educators and teachers.”

Teachers' union the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysers Unie (SAOU) in Limpopo said close to 70% of its members indicated in a survey that bullying was a problem at schools.

Magnus Steyn, SAOU chair for Limpopo, said in that survey a question was asked if bullying was “positively addressed at your school”.

Steyn said 65% said yes and 33.1% said no to that question.

On the question of to what extent the department of basic education was involved in the reporting of and addressing bullying behaviour at schools, 61% said “not at all”, while 21% of the respondents said “partly”, and 9.2% said “adequately”.

The commission decided to hold hearings after noting an increase in reports related to corporal punishment and sexual relationships between teachers and pupils.

There were also incidents of bullying, one of which led a pupil to take her own life.