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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  2002   :  ZA Schools Sep 2002


School CP - September 2002


Daily News, Durban, 12 September 2002

KZN teachers in trouble over beatings

By Charmaine Pillay

TWELVE KwaZulu-Natal teachers are facing disciplinary action for allegedly meting out corporal punishment to pupils.

Corporal punishment was outlawed in 1996 when the new SA Schools Act came into effect.

Three teachers were dismissed by the department for such offences last year.

At present four teachers in the Northern Durban region, three in Ladysmith, three in Pietermaritzburg and two in Empangeni have been charged by the department for using corporal punishment. If found guilty, their sentences could vary from a warning to dismissal, depending on the severity of the assault.

In the latest incident, a grade three pupil at the Jozini Primere School, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, was allegedly beaten on her buttocks with a wooden spoon by one of her teachers last week.

Although her parents, Mr James Foxcroft and Mrs Rose Foxcroft laid a charge of assault against the teacher at the Mkhuse police station, they chose not to report it to the education department. They said previous complaints against a senior school staff member had largely been ignored.

"This is not the first incident of physical abuse at the school, yet no one is doing anything about it. Eight other pupils in my daughter's class were beaten that day, but the parents are too scared to speak up and the pupils are petrified," said Mrs Foxcroft.

School principal Mr Martin Strydom said when the matter was brought to his notice, he reported it to the district superintendent of education management.

Education spokesman Mr Mandla Msibi urged the parents to lay a complaint with the department, saying the matter would be investigated.


Cape Argus, 18 September 2002

Our Classrooms of Shame

By Jennie Van Der Merwe

Cape Town, Sep 18, 2002 -- Teachers in the Western Cape beat, sexually assault and rape pupils, and are facing nearly 250 cases of misconduct for these offences.

Official figures obtained by the Cape Argus show the number of abuse cases reported by pupils has soared in recent months.

There are more than 240 serious cases pending.

Already 31 teachers have been dismissed by the provincial Education Department this year for a variety of misdemeanours.

More than one-fifth of the cases awaiting completion - 53 in total - relate to corporal punishment or assault of pupils.

The second most common complaint against teachers is for absenteeism, with 40 cases pending, and the third is fraud or corruption, with 31 cases pending.

The provincial department's labour relations director, Eugene Southgate, said there had been a steady increase in the number of complaints lodged against teachers since 1999, after the department had adopted formal disciplinary procedures.

His directorate now hears an average of 40 disciplinary cases a month involving teachers - an average of two every working day.

"The majority of corporal punishment cases are in the metropole.

About 21% are in the rural areas.

Presently, corporal punishment/assault cases are in the majority.

"This we ascribe to a greater awareness of the matter by school principals, after the department conducted training sessions with them and reminded them of the requirement that all such cases be reported to the department as a matter of course."

He said disciplinary cases took about eight weeks to complete.

"There are instances where it does take longer, for instance, when it is a very complex case (such as fraud), refusal of witnesses to testify, school examinations or school vacations."

Physical punishment is outlawed by the National Education Policy Act and the South African Schools Act, yet the practice still enjoys tacit approval in many schools.

In one pending case, a teacher was accused of hitting pupils with a baseball bat.

The large number of complaints of corporal punishment in the province prompted the department to distribute a circular clarifying policy on corporal punishment and warning teachers that they could expect harsh punishment or even lose their jobs.

The circular said: "Any employee of the (Western Cape Education Department) who uses physical or psychological means to 'discipline' or 'punish' a learner is hereby advised that the department will, in the first instance, formally charge such employee with misconduct, while at the same time consider referring such a matter to the police or possible criminal prosecution of the individual.

"Employees are further advised that civil or criminal proceedings may be initiated by the parents or guardians of any learner against any individual who it is alleged administered corporal punishment to their child.

"In such a case, the individual employee would be sued in his/her personal capacity."

Education Minister Kader Asmal also expressed his concern at the high incidence of corporal punishment, and commended provinces that dismissed teachers without waiting for the SA Council of Educators to de-register them.

Asmal said: "There is a great deal of intimidation and children are not able to report these instances.

"Corporal punishment is a serious offence. It's an example of sadism.

"Our department has formulated alternatives to this."

But many teachers feel the department throws the book at them when they try to keep abusive or disruptive children in check, but fails to bring into line pupils who swear at them, insult them, humiliate them, wilfully disrupt classes or threaten to assault them.

Senior education officials in the province believe teachers do not receive enough backup from the department to deal with difficult children, and are not trained sufficiently in alternatives to corporal punishment.

One official, who asked not to be named, said teachers were demotivated: "The department needs to train teachers to manage a class of 40 to 50 pupils, often coming from difficult or disadvantaged backgrounds.

"They often don't have any alternatives to corporal punishment and simply don't know how to manage children otherwise."

A psychologist in the department said teachers often hit pupils out of frustration.

Although there were numerous regulations to control teachers' behaviour, there were no regulations protecting teachers from abuse by pupils, and that teachers often felt principals would rather believe a child than a teacher.

Provincial Education Minister Andre Gaum acknowledged that discipline in schools was "a problem".

"We believe that the higher number of allegations made against teachers regarding corporal punishment is indicative of educators who are struggling to find ways within the existing framework to deal effectively with learner discipline."

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