SAHRC concerned about corporal punishment in schools
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08 July 2013
The South African Human Rights Commission expresses immense concern at the rise in incidents of corporal punishment in schools across the country. The Commission has received complaints and has noted instances where the violence committed by educators against learners extends far beyond the ambit of the definition of corporal punishment. These include instances where children were severely humiliated, grievously injured, left disabled, or did not survive their injuries.
On the 4th July 2013, the South African Human Rights Commission’s Children and Basic Education Portfolio convened a meeting on corporal punishment in schools. Institutions represented were the South African Principal’s Association, The South African Democratic Teacher’s Union, The National Alliance of School Governing Bodies, the South African Council of Educators, the Department of Basic Education, UNICEF South Africa, the Centre for Child Law, and the University of Stellenbosch.
Corporal punishment in schools was outlawed by section 10(1) of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 (The Act). Despite this, statistics from the 2011 General Household Survey (StatsSA; 2011) indicate that there were 2 103 677 reported incidents of corporal punishment in schools in 2011.
Section 3 of the Act makes school compulsory for children. This gives rise to an imperative that such institutions must therefore be safe and enabling environments. Teachers, in many respects, have own protective and proactive role to play in the growth and development of children. It is therefore deeply disconcerting that educator-learner violence rates are so high.
This meeting was convened so that different perspectives and different facets of the issue could be explored. It was an extremely useful interaction. Importantly, factors that predominated the discussion is that all stakeholders share the fundamental belief that educators should follow the dictates of the law, and that it is important to work together in order to make this a reality in schools.
Concurrent to the Commission’s endeavours in this field is a study currently underway, and commissioned by the Centre for Child Law. Its broad aim is to gain understanding of the practice of corporal punishment in schools and why it remains common practice.
The end purpose is to inform a strategy to systematically end corporal punishment in schools. This approach may include litigation, hearings by the SAHRC and other improvements in ensuring the accountability of educators.
It is the full intention of the Commission to continue to pursue this matter- in partnership with other interested parties- and our hope that this will result in the formulation of a just and equitable way forward for children.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission
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