Durban - A Phoenix father has laid a criminal charge against a Grade 1 teacher at a local primary school for allegedly pinching and slapping his seven-year-old daughter, who the teacher claimed had copied.
The girl is one of 46 000 pupils in the eThekwini district who experienced corporal punishment last year, according to the General Household Survey report compiled by Statistics SA.
The 2019 report is due to be released in May 2020. Schools within the district were named among the country’s top offenders although corporal punishment was banned more than 20 years ago.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said the Phoenix child was allegedly assaulted in the classroom and a case of assault opened. The girl’s father said the assault took place on September 5, for a second copying offence.
The day before his daughter was forced to stand against the chalkboard at the front of the class for an hour after the first alleged incident of copying.
“I went to the school on September 6 and approached the principal. I asked to see the test paper to see that she had copied. Their response was that not all the answers were copied and refused to show me the test paper. The principal said the teacher was very sorry for what had happened. I had asked for a written apology, but was told that it was not possible. I then went to Phoenix police station to lay a charge.” The father claimed that a school official visited him last Sunday, asking him to drop the charge as it would lead to the teacher being forced into early retirement.
Education Department spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said: “We don’t punish children. We have life orientation, which deals with behaviour through discussions around an individual school’s code of conduct.”
Asked about schools that use detention as a form of discipline, Mthethwa said this depended on individual schools’ policies and code of conduct.
Last October, the Daily News reported that a teacher at a Durban school was caught on camera caning two pupils.
The Grade 11 teacher was seen and heard reading out the names of pupils who failed to attend an after-school study session, which began at 3pm.
He was then seen raising a long, thin pipe and striking a male and female pupil on the hand before the video ends.
In July, GroundUp reported that a senior staff member at a Pietermaritzburg high school was caught on camera giving latecomers a single strike on the hand at the school gate. Mthethwa said disciplinary action was taken in all instances where corporal punishment was reported to the department.
At a high school in KwaDabeka, latecomers were given two options, to run laps outside the school gate, or have their school shoes confiscated for the day. Mthethwa said the department was unaware of this practice, and did not support it.
Vee Gani, president of the KZN Parents’ Association said: “This is not a school activity, so what happens if a child faints? If the children step on glass or get hurt while barefoot, then the school is liable. This is also demeaning to the child.”
Gani said an alternative he had seen produce results was a principal making all latecomers stay on school grounds until the first period was over.
“He took down all the latecomers’ names and on the first day there were 60 names on that list. He did the same on the second day and there were 24 names on the list; on the third day there were 10 names on that list.” He said with the names on the list, the principal was able to see who was always late and then addressed the reasons behind this because “it could be that some children had genuine problems at home”.
Linda Shezi, president of the SA Principals’ Association in KZN, said pupils must respond to interventions laid out in the school’s code of conduct and felt proper support must be given in situations where all interventions have been exhausted by schools and pupils still showed no improvement in behaviour.