Teachers urged to refrain from corporal punishment

Friday, September 15, 2017

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says teachers must use alternative techniques, other than corporal punishment, when disciplining learners.

The Minister said this when she briefed journalists on the outcomes of the meeting of the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) in Hatfield on Friday.

Her remarks came after a video of a teacher, caning a learner, went viral and caused a social media storm.

Minister Motshekga said corporal punishment had once again reared its ugly head, with the country seeing “extremely disturbing videos emerge on social media of disgusting misconduct by teachers”.

Corporal punishment has been outlawed in schools for over 20 years.

“We understand that in many cases, teachers need to be trained in alternative discipline techniques and the second phase of the protocol will look at behaviour interventions and support, essentially positive ways of disciplining learners.

“We also believe teachers need to make use of de-escalation techniques so that situations that could lead to violence can be taken down a notch to avoid such.

“Teachers should work on a positive reward system rather than that of punishment and we are working closely with UNICEF on this project,” she said.

The Minister said the department has developed a Protocol for the Elimination of Corporal Punishment in South African Schools. She said it was evident by the emergence of the viral videos and reports from learner organisations that corporal punishment is still taking place in schools. 

She said disturbing statistics indicate that over 50% of learners have experienced corporal punishment at some point in their schooling and that it is on the increase. 

“Corporal punishment is a manifestation of the violence that is endemic in South African society and in many ways, is used to exert a form of control.

“Often parents expect and demand teachers use ‘mild’ forms of corporal punishment, as it is believed to be an important part of teaching children discipline. This practice is prohibited in schools, as parents cannot abdicate their responsibility to discipline their children.”

The Minister said the Council of Education Ministers’ meeting also discussed the possibility of vetting teachers following an incident where a principal and two teachers allegedly gang-raped a learner at one school.

She said, at this stage, there is no agreement or existing policy or proposal on the vetting of teachers, and that it would require consultation with the relevant stakeholders.  

Concerns of Vuwani’s impact on exams

Meanwhile, the Minister said the education sector remains concerned on the protracted shutdown in Vuwani, which will enter its third week on Monday.

On 4 September, Vuwani residents embarked on a strike and announced a shutdown of the town, reportedly over their dissatisfaction of unaddressed service delivery demands from last year’s protest.

The shutdown has affected 26 secondary schools and 52 primary schools have been affected by the shutdown, which translates to 29 066 learners. Out of these, 1 657 are grade 12 learners.

“What concerns us the most is the fact that the disruptions have affected learners, particularly those in grade 12, as they could not finish writing their preliminary examinations. 

“We hope that the continued engagement between stakeholders will yield some positive outcomes that will create a conducive environment for learning and teaching to resume,” Minister Motshekga said. 

Incident-free exams

Minister Motshekga said the department is working tirelessly to ensure that the upcoming National Senior Certificate exams are free from any irregularities.

Registration of NSC Examinations Centres and candidates has been completed and final verification of the data is underway. Question papers have been set and externally moderated. 

“To avert leakage of 2017 question papers, all 212 storage points across the country have been audited to ensure compliance with the minimum security standards. Storage points that do not comply will not be allowed to store question papers. 

“One of the things we have been looking at more closely as a sector and one of the focal points of the department’s provincial visits is the tracking of learner performance throughout the year. We are now looking at how learners have performed in the mid-year examinations and providing specific support for struggling learners,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za

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