Corporal punishment continues despite being banned

Section27 is heading back to court to challenge the South African Council of Educators’ (SACE) “lenient” sanctions issued to teachers found guilty of corporal punishment.

Section27 is heading back to court to challenge the South African Council of Educators’ (SACE) “lenient” sanctions issued to teachers found guilty of corporal punishment.

Published Dec 5, 2022

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Cape Town - Section27 is heading back to court to challenge the South African Council of Educators’ (SACE) “lenient” sanctions issued to teachers found guilty of corporal punishment.

The public interest law centre has applied for leave to appeal an earlier Gauteng High Court judgment, concerning a review of the decisions by SACE in disciplinary proceedings against two teachers, who both pleaded guilty to corporal punishment.

They had previously also sought systemic relief directing SACE to reconsider and revise its 2020 “Mandatory Sanctions on Contravention of the Code of Professional Ethics (Towards a robust SAGE Sanctioning Philosophy)” (“Revised Mandatory Sanctions).

The court dismissed the review application on the basis that it was “unreasonably delayed”, but granted the systemic relief.

The organisation now argued: “The question of delay in the absence of reasons raises important questions of administrative law that have implications for the treatment of delay in all judicial reviews.

The divergence between this court’s judgment and previous judgments ought to be resolved by the SCA. We submit that leave to appeal ought to be granted in respect of the dismissal of the review application,” court papers read.

The matter stems from an application instituted in 2020, challenging the decisions of SACE for the sanctions it imposed on the teachers who pleaded guilty to assaulting learners in their classrooms.

In one case, a teacher was charged with beating two Grade 2 learners over the head with a PVC pipe, causing physical and psychological harm. After the incident, the teacher went on to intimidate one of the victims to try to prevent the child from reporting the incident.

In the second instance, a teacher hit a Grade 5 learner across the face, causing the child to bleed from the ear.

“Both of the above teachers were given identical sentences by SACE.

They were fined R15 000, of which R10 000 was suspended.

“The teachers received another suspended sentence of having their names struck off of the teachers’ roll for ten years.

“Their names would actually only be struck off of the roll if they were to be found guilty of perpetrating corporal punishment or some other contravention of SACE’s Code of Ethics in future.

“This means that despite their violent behaviour, both teachers are still in classrooms.”

The organisation also takes issue with the fact that: “Although present at the hearings where the teachers signed guilty pleas, the children who were subjected to corporal punishment and their parents were not given any meaningful opportunity to make submissions regarding the sentences.”

SACE is also seeking leave to cross-appeal against certain paragraphs of Judge Dawie Fourie’s judgment.

SACE did not respond to requests for comment by deadline on Sunday.

The matter will be heard in court on Tuesday.

Cape Times