Human rights organisation Sonke Gender Justice Network has lashed out at King Goodwill Zwelithini for criticising the abolition of corporal punishment‚ which he believes has resulted in a lack of discipline in schools.
In a statement‚ the non-profit organisation — which works for just‚ equitable and healthy relationships between men‚ women and young people — has called on the Zulu monarch to apologise for his comments.
Addressing principals as the patron of education in KwaZulu-Natal in Empangeni on Tuesday‚ Zwelithini said the fear of being disciplined through corporal punishment encouraged pupils to perform well.
Criticising the abolition of corporal punishment‚ he said: “These laws do affect us negatively because children have to be corrected. Who here can say they were never corrected?”
He said some children were motivated to perform to their maximum just by seeing a cane in the classroom‚ but said there should be no excessive use of corporal punishment by teachers.
But Sonke‚ which is currently co-hosting the Five Days of Violence Prevention Conference in Johannesburg‚ said research from Africa and its own parenting programmes show that discipline does not require beatings.
“In contrast to the king’s statement‚ proverbs in Zulu put into question the claim that hitting children is part of African culture. For example‚ the Zulu proverb which states: Induki ayiwakhi umuzi [Beatings don’t build a home]‚” said Sonke.
The NGO said evidence that emerged during the conference has confirmed once again that childhood exposure to physical and emotional abuse‚ including corporal punishment‚ is a significant contributing factor to men’s use of violence against women.
Sonke’s director of strategic partnerships‚ Bafana Khumalo‚ told delegates at the conference: “In order to prevent gender-based violence‚ we have to include non-violent parenting as a prevention strategy.”
Since its inception in 2006‚ Sonke has been working with parents to end violence against children and to promote childrens’ rights and non-violent and positive parenting.
The group has called for an apology and retraction by Zwelithini‚ a commitment by the Department of Basic Education to implement the National Protocol on Corporal Punishment in Schools from January next year and that the Department of Social Development table the third amendment of the Children’s Act in order to prohibit corporal punishment in all spaces before the end of the year.
Corporal punishment was abolished in the country in terms of the Schools Act of 1996 but there are still pockets of teachers who practise it.
KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane had distanced himself from Zwelithini’s statement‚ saying: “It’s sad and annoying that in this day and age I still find myself having to speak about corporal punishment. I do not think there is any teacher who does not know that corporal punishment was banned a long time ago.”