…By Roland Peterson for TDPel Media.
Despite the ban on corporal punishment in South Africa nearly 30 years ago, recent statistics released by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) reveal that three out of ten households still believe it is acceptable to physically discipline children, particularly when they talk back or argue with their parents.
These findings come to light during Child Protection Week, prompting a critical examination of the prevailing attitudes towards punishment in the country.
Acceptance of Corporal Punishment at Home:
According to StatsSA, a significant portion of households, approximately 30%, continue to endorse corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children.
Parents justify resorting to physical punishment when children engage in behaviors such as backtalking, arguing, lying, or fighting with siblings.
This alarming level of acceptance raises concerns about the well-being and emotional development of children in these households.
Corporal Punishment in Schools:
The Children Exposed to Maltreatment report for 2021, released earlier this year, paints a troubling picture of the persisting use of corporal punishment in schools.
Shockingly, the report reveals that teachers still employ physical punishment as a disciplinary measure.
In 2019, the report highlights that children between the ages of 8 and 11 were the primary victims of corporal punishment in schools, with an alarming rate of 84%.
Legal Action and Lenient Sanctions:
Human rights group Section 27 has taken the South African Council of Educators (SACE) to the Supreme Court Appeal on behalf of the Centre for Child Law (CCL) and two parents.
The case revolves around two incidents in Gauteng and Limpopo where teachers inflicted physical harm on students, resulting in injuries.
Despite the severity of the incidents, SACE imposed lenient sanctions, including fines and temporary suspensions, allowing the teachers to return to the classroom.
Section 27’s Demands for Reform:
Section 27 calls for a revision of SACE’s Mandatory Sanctions Policy, urging the inclusion of rehabilitative and corrective measures, such as anger management, to address teachers’ violent behavior.
They advocate for a child-centered approach that allows learners and their parents to participate in SACE’s disciplinary hearings and make representations.
While the High Court acknowledged the need for policy changes within SACE, it did not set aside the decisions made against the two teachers.
Ongoing Legal Battle:
SACE is now counter-appealing the High Court judgment, particularly contesting the order to revise its Mandatory Sanctions Policy.
The resolution of this legal battle will determine the future approach to corporal punishment within South African schools and the level of accountability expected from educators.
The persistence of acceptance towards corporal punishment in South African homes and schools is a concerning issue.
While the government banned corporal punishment years ago, it is clear that a substantial number of households still endorse such disciplinary practices.
Moreover, the lenient sanctions imposed by SACE on teachers who engage in physical punishment undermine the safety and well-being of students.
The ongoing legal battle highlights the need for comprehensive reforms that prioritize the best interests of the child and promote alternative, non-violent disciplinary methods.
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