Dept condemns call to hit back at teachers

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pretoria - The Basic Education Department has strongly condemned the statement allegedly made by the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) chairperson, calling on learners to hit back at teachers who use corporal punishment on them.

"The call made by Ntsako Mogobe for learners to hit back at teachers who use physical violence against them is irresponsible and unacceptable. The statement could lead to an increase in the levels and nature of violence at schools," the department said in a statement.

Mogobe reportedly said at a press briefing last week: "We call on all students to fight fire with fire. When teachers hit you, you must hit back."

The department said schools were meant to be sites of learning and teaching, warning that nothing constructive could when there was a confrontational atmosphere between teachers and learners. 

However, the department reiterated that it was unacceptable and illegal for a teacher to use physical force against a learner, and it was equally unacceptable and illegal for learners to hit back at teachers. 

"Legislation such as the South African Schools Act of 1996 (Act 84 of 1996) prohibits corporal punishment or the use of any physical violence against learners at all educational institutions. The abolishment of corporal punishment in schools under the Act requires educators to identify and implement alternative disciplinary practices and procedures.

"The South African Schools Act clearly states that it is the responsibility of the School Governing Body, in collaboration with the School Management Team, to institute Codes of Conduct for Learners, and to manage misconduct by learners accordingly ... No learner may use physical violence against any teacher or fellow learner, disciplinary procedures are clearly spelt out and must be followed," the department said.

While the department acknowledged that discipline in schools was paramount to ensure a positive culture of learning and teaching for both teachers and learners, the real challenge lay in the implementation and maintenance of disciplinary measures and procedures that uphold order in schools with understanding and compassion. 

"It requires energy, insight, consistency and rigour on the part of the educators, and commitment and understanding on the part of learners and parents."

The department further warned that violence of any form was anti-human and ultimately an abusive practice that could entrench the idea that it was a quick solution to problems.

"Schools must not be turned into battlegrounds - that will prevent meaningful learning and teaching taking place ... Clearly it is the responsibility of all at school to play their part in ensuring that a positive atmosphere is created and sustained, which is conducive to quality learning and teaching.

"The department has clear procedures in place through which alleged incidents involving teachers and learners will be dealt with firmly. Any incident should be officially reported and the department will act," the department said.