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School CP - June 1999

The Namibian, Windhoek, 4 June 1999

Beating Claim Reveals Teachers' Frustrations

By Tangeni Amupadhi

Windhoek-- The principal of a Windhoek high school is facing assault charges after allegedly beating a student over a haircut.

SA van Zyl, the headmaster of Jan Mohr, has refused to comment on the charge except to say the issue has been blown out of proportion. The charge was laid last week by Richard van Wyk, the father of 15-year-old Angello, whose haircut apparently violated "school standards".

Van Wyk maintains his son's hair cut was "quite normal". Police launched an investigation into allegations that Van Zyl punched Angello Van Wyk on the forehead before sending him home.

The student did not sustain any visible injuries. One Katutura teacher said Van Zyl's alleged reaction over the hair cut may be an expression of frustration many teachers have faced since the abolishment of corporal punishment after Namibia's Independence.

Schools throughout the country continue to report incidents of teachers spanking pupils, despite the official ban. Teachers feel the policy against corporal punishment has robbed them of an effective disciplinary tool.

According to Max Johnson of St Francis Primary School at Tsumeb most teachers are annoyed they can no longer spank children. Johnson said the scrapping of corporal punishment had affected discipline among school children and parents often complained th at schools were to blame for the deterioration in discipline because they no longer beat pupils.

Acting principal of Suiderhof Primary School, AF du Plooy, concurred. Du Plooy said her school has not applied corporal punishment for nine years although "boys sometimes ask for it".

"We do not use it because we cannot," said Du Plooy who added that, in any case, her school had only one male out of 22 teachers, making it "naturally difficult" to apply corporal punishment. "Sometimes a child asks for spanking on his buttocks," quipped Du Plooy.

"I do it with my own children at home."

While various schools, particularly around Windhoek have reported sporadic incidents of beatings by teachers, most use other means of punishment. Augustineum even goes as far as instituting misconduct charges against teachers who violate the anti-spanking policy, said principal Berra Mungunda.

The principal of Academia, TW du Toit, is one of few teachers with strong personal objections to corporal punishment. In fact, said Du Toit, other methods of punishing students had proved more effective as they opened up channels of communication between teachers and parents.

At Academia, students are awarded marks for indiscipline - the higher the penalty mark the tougher the punishment. When the marks accumulate to a certain figure the child is suspended and could eventually face expulsion.

Parents are kept up to date with the child's disciplinary record. Du Toit said spanking was unfair as it mainly affected boys.

But even with few disciplinary problems, Du Toit said some parents still insisted on their children getting a hiding. In one incident, said Du Toit, a parent came to school ordering that his son be spanked, but "we just gave him the cane and he beat the kid in the presence of the teacher".

Copyright 1999 The Namibian.

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