Spare the folks – when it comes to beatings‚ some pupils ‘prefer that sort of punishment’‚ report says

South African pupils would rather be beaten than have their parents called in to see a teacher‚ a new study shows.

This‚ along with a lack of political will‚ means corporal punishment will continue to shame schools 20 years after it was outlawed as schools open around the country today.

Some pupils would rather be beaten at school rather that have parents called in.
Some pupils would rather be beaten at school rather that have parents called in.

A study‚ conducted last year in KwaZulu-Natal‚ found that pupils view corporal punishment as part of a teacher’s role.

“Especially with African learners‚ some like that sort of punishment. They seem to prefer that as opposed to having their parents being called to the school‚” one teacher told academics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education.

“Sometimes learners‚ particularly black learners‚ will encourage the teacher to beat them‚ pointing out that they are misbehaving because they are not beaten. When I first came to this school‚ they used to encourage me to beat them as their previous teacher did‚” the teacher is quoted as saying.

The principal of one of the schools‚ which are not identified‚ told the researchers: “The main problem is that the law is against something which has been done for centuries. The parents use (corporal punishment) at home. So these learners know how they are punished at home when they misbehave.”

“A pupil at one of the schools said violence was part of the culture. ‘We are beaten all the time. Teachers use the hosepipe’.”

Stefanie Röhrs‚ a senior researcher at the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town‚ said teachers continued to use corporal punishment because there was “no accountability or enforcement of the law”.

The South African Council of Educators‚ which registers teachers‚ said in its annual report last year that 267 cases of corporal punishment and assault were reported to it in the year ending March 31.

But council CEO Rej Brijraj said many complaints were “abandoned”.

“It can happen that you have a slow response rate… which often leads to people giving up on pursuing the matter‚” he said.

The deputy provincial secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union in KZN‚ Bheki Shandu‚ said teachers and schools lacked support from the Department of Basic Education in dealing with situations that led to corporal punishment.

But department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said it was “narrow-minded” to blame the department.
“We really need parents to play a major role. The teaching of values starts at home and not at school. In school. we only continue the tasks that would have been started by parents from the time their children are born.”

Röhrs linked the issue to corporal punishment in the home‚ saying the Children’s Institute was frustrated that‚ despite 10 years of effort‚ the law still did not prevent parents hitting their children.

A clause in the 2007 amendment to the Children’s Act would have prohibited corporal punishment in the home‚ but the clause was removed before the amendment was passed.

Only last week‚ France passed a law banning parents from spanking.

Signals made by the South African government in 2014 to ban spanking in the home have come to naught.

Röhrs said critics feared that a legal ban on smacking would lead to parents being prosecuted for disciplining their children‚ but this was not the intended purpose.

But‚ Jean van Rooyen‚ Gauteng manager of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools‚ said violence children might experience out of school did not necessarily translate to the classroom.

If students were occupied constructively‚ engaged in their work and have passionate teachers‚ then discipline problems would not be as much of an issue.

Paddy Attwell‚ spokesman for the education department in the Western Cape — where most the corporal punishment cases (171) were reported in 2015/16 — said that‚ beyond the question of punishment‚ it was “important to realise that poor behaviour is a Band-Aid that reflects deeper issues”.

He added: “We need to ask ourselves why the child is behaving a certain way. Our goal is not to manage bad behaviour but to change it.”

Writing in the South African Journal of Education‚ UKZN academics Sekitla Makhasane and Vitallis Chikoko said their study found that leadership was usually the “missing link” when teachers resorted to corporal punishment.

“It is doubly paradoxical that within schools there are teachers who show potential to lead the fight against corporal punishment‚ but that this potential is not exploited; and that some learners still see the place of corporal punishment‚ where they ought to be fighting against it.”

Tips on classroom discipline

10 pieces of advice from the Western Cape education department to teachers on classroom discipline:

  • Adopt a whole-school approach and make sure your classroom discipline reflects the school’s policies;
  • Establish ground rules with your classes at the beginning of the year;
  • Be serious and consistent about the implementation of rules;
  • Build a relationship of trust in which pupils feel respected‚ understood and recognised;
  • Manage the learning process and environment enthusiastically and professionally;
  • Be inclusive: leaving pupils out and not reflecting an understanding of their needs could alienate them;
  • Give pupils the opportunity to succeed;
  • Allow pupils to take responsibility for day-to-day events in class;
  • Give attention-seekers what they want; and
  • Use professional assistance such as psychologists or community counsellors. — Tiso Black Star Group Digital

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