Durban - Charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm have been laid against a KwaZulu-Natal teacher who allegedly instructed five pupils to shuffle on their knees on a tarred road for almost 10 minutes.
The pupils, from a KwaNdengezi primary school near Mariannhill, said the teacher had punished them for making a noise in class.
The teacher has denied the claims.
Two of the five pupils, accompanied by their parents and representatives of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, opened the case against him at the local police station on Thursday. The other three have already laid charges. The alleged incident occurred on March 14.
At the police station a 15-year-old Grade 7 pupil told the Daily News that he and his classmates had been joking and laughing before they were punished.
“One of the pupils went to inform the teacher that we were making a noise.
“The pupil came back with the teacher. The teacher called us outside. He then said we should pull up our pants above the knees and get on our knees and run.”
He said they did it for almost 10 minutes before the teacher told them to return to their classroom.
The grandparent of one of the pupils said the boy did not tell her how both his knees got injured.
“Another boy from our neighbour came to our house and saw my grandchild had sores on his knees. He said to him, ‘You also like this?’ I asked him what happened and he told me,” she said.
“He was limping and his legs were swollen. I went to the teacher and he apologised. I was upset and couldn’t accept it because he (her grandchild) has health problems and the other teachers knew that he was on medication.”
She said she took him to a local clinic and he was given medication to treat his sores.
According to the South African school code of conduct, no person may administer corporal punishment at a school to a pupil.
It says a person who does is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a sentence, which could be imposed for assault.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, confirmed that they were investigating a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. No arrest had yet been made.The department has condemned the incident, saying it was a form of corporal punishment, which has been banned since 2006.
On Monday, department head Dr Nkosinathi Sishi had visited another school in Mbumbulu where he told pupils they had a right to lay a charge against a teacher using corporal punishment.
He had gone to Lugobe High School after the Daily News reported that at least 40 girls had been seen leaving the school with marks and welts on their legs after they claimed they were beaten by their teacher for arriving late.
The department’s spokesman, Bhekisisa Mncube, said they hoped the KwaNdengezi teacher would be arrested by Friday.
He said police had directed the alleged victims to a district surgeon to examine their injuries.
“The surgeon will examine their sores and conclude if they coincide with the story of the pupils.”
Mncube said the acting principal could also face an internal disciplinary hearing.
“She had an opportunity two weeks ago to discipline the teacher and she did not. She failed in her duties to look after the pupils,” he said. Mncube said the department would instruct its district director to investigate why no action had been taken against the teacher.
The teacher and the acting principal would be charged for misconduct, gross misconduct and for administering corporal punishment, he said.
“We have collected enough information and in the next 24 hours we should be able to suspend two teachers,” said Mncube.
“We wish to apologise to the parents and the victims. For us, a classroom is a holy grail. It should offer peace, love and nurturing of learners.”
The teacher, whose name is known to the Daily News, denied the allegations against him.
“It’s an unfortunate situation and I am prepared to face it. I deny the allegations. There is a plot against me and it will be revealed in due time.”
His union and lawyer instructed him not to comment further.