Durban - Corporal punishment was rife in KwaZulu-Natal schools despite being prohibited almost two decades ago.
This emerged as provincial education boss, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, warned on Monday that teachers who still used it would be sacked.
He described corporal punishment as inhumane.
Sishi was addressing teachers and pupils at Lugobe High School in Mbumbulu on Monday.
Sishi said he was shocked to read a report in the Daily News on Thursday that at least 40 girls had been seen leaving the school with marks and welts on their legs.
They said they had been beaten by a teacher for arriving late or for failing tests.
“I am expecting to get a report in a week’s time. There would be a due process taken,” he said.
“But it is very clear - a teacher found doing this could face dismissal. Pupils have a right to lay a charge against the teacher.”
Sishi said: “We have long abandoned corporal punishment in the province. I am not being ambiguous about it: teachers previously found guilty of practising it have been dismissed. It is inhumane and against the human rights values that we are trying to uphold as a society.”
Sishi took pupils to task for failing to report teachers who use corporal punishment.
“I am holding you to account. You must report these disgraceful actions.”
He also had stern words for pupils who had threatened to stone a Daily News team’s car last week.
“I am shocked that pupils threatened journalists under your watch. We like to apologise to media for last week’s occurrence; we can never afford to have a no-go area school.”
Sishi said he had met the teachers and the principal earlier yesterday and they had agreed to help with the investigation into the alleged assaults.
Although the school wanted to improve on its 67 percent matric pass last year, corporal punishment was not the way to achieve this, he said.
“They have said openly that they have been disgraced by the negative attention the school was getting from newspapers.”
The teacher who allegedly assaulted the pupils has denied the claims.
Sishi urged parents to report to the department or the police if they saw that a child might have been hit.
Approached for comment, National Teachers Union deputy president, Allen Thompson, said too many teachers turned to the stick instead of developing more humane and effective ways to maintain discipline.
“There is still a long way to go for teachers to familiarise themselves with other alternative measures rather than using this outdated method.”
Thompson said the use of corporal punishment was not as common as it used to be and was mostly found in rural schools, but remained a reality.
He said the union often warned its members to “desist from using the stick because nobody is above the law”.
“There are people facing criminal charges because a parent has laid a charge of assault,” he said.
Thompson said parents should get involved in their children’s schools.
Pupils were sometimes violent towards fellow pupils and teachers, and teachers would sometimes use corporal punishment to instill discipline, he said.
The KwaZulu-Natal chairman of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Reginald Chiliza, said parents should lay charges against teachers who assaulted pupils.