Pretoria – Despite the ban on corporal punishment, it is still prevalent in schools across the country, the Center for Child Law said in a petition challenging the punishment inflicted by two teachers who beat elementary school children.
The center has turned to the High Court in Gauteng, Pretoria, where it has filed papers challenging the “lenient” punishment imposed by the SA Council of Educators against teachers while Section 27 will fight on behalf of parents of children.
The action followed two complaints that Section27 had received from two groups of parents who claimed that their children – a boy and a girl – had been beaten by teachers.
In the first case in Gauteng, a 7-year-old boy in Grade 2 was hit on the back of the head with a PVC pipe by his teacher in 2015.
He suffered head injuries which became infected and resulted in his hospitalization.
In the second case in Limpopo in 2019, a 10-year-old girl in 5th grade was slapped on the head and cheek by her teacher. She was left with bleeding ears and suffered from ongoing complications which resulted in her having to repeat the year.
The parents of the two learners shared the fear their children felt when they returned to school.
The Council of Educators held disciplinary hearings for the teachers, who both pleaded guilty to their misconduct.
The penalties imposed on the two teachers included their removal from the educator roll. However, that sanction was suspended for 10 years – allowing teachers to continue working until they were found guilty of another case of misconduct.
In addition, the teachers were fined R15,000, of which R5,000 was suspended, leaving R10,000.00 payable over 12 months.
Article 27 considers that the sanctions imposed are not substantial, the teachers having violated the constitutional obligation of the council of educators to protect the rights of the learners. Discipline, within the meaning of the law, should not be punitive.
Karabo Ozah of the Center for Child Law said in filed documents that South Africa’s Schools Act banned the use of corporal punishment in 1996. In 2000, this was confirmed in the Christian Education case.
She said research showed corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure remained prevalent in schools in South Africa. Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey 2018 indicates that up to one million learners reported experiencing corporal punishment that year.
The Center for the Rights of the Child noted in a report that the impact of corporal punishment on learners was severe.
Evidence summarized in the report suggests that corporal punishment is psychologically damaging to a learner and negatively impacts a child’s ability to confidently perform and participate in school.
The report recommends stronger mechanisms in South Africa to enforce the ban on corporal punishment.
Registered educators are bound by the council’s code of ethics, which mandates that interactions between teachers and their learners must, above all, respect the constitutional rights of children, she said.
Ozah added that as the guardian of the teaching profession, the board has a responsibility to take appropriate action against teachers who violate the code by practicing corporal punishment and violating the right of students to be free from harm. any harm and violence.
The Council of Educators, meanwhile, indicated that it would oppose this request and that it should hand over to the clerk of the court the files relating to its decisions when it sanctioned the two teachers.
In terms of the law, a person who violates the corporal punishment provision – whether a teacher, parent or other adult – is guilty of a criminal offense and, if he or she is is found guilty, may receive a sentence that may be imposed for assault.
News from Pretoria