Corporal punishment at school.Picture Zanele Zulu.19/03/2014

Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education is probing claims by pupils at a South Coast school that a teacher frequently assaulted them with a plastic pipe for arriving late or failing tests.

They claimed they had to show up for class at 6.30am, whereas school only begins at 8am.

A Daily News team went to the school in Mbumbulu, near eManzimtoti, on Wednesday and counted at least 40 girls leaving the school with what appeared to be fresh bruises on their legs.

They said they had been hit earlier for arriving late.

The pupils said they dreaded going to school because of the alleged assaults that left them with bruises and welts on their calves and forearms.

Most were too afraid to speak, but some confirmed that one matric pupil had fainted after she was beaten. She was taken to a local clinic by a teacher.

The Daily News contacted the 18-year-old girl, but she only confirmed that she was at a clinic before hanging up.

“It was hectic; we thought she was dying,” said one pupil, who had marks on her legs and arms.

“After beating us, he (the teacher) became apologetic and told us he expected nothing less than a distinction in his subject. This is unacceptable. We fear coming to school because not a single day goes by without him hitting us.”

Telephoned later for comment, the teacher denied the claims.

“You can write whatever you like because you want to sell the paper at my expense,” he said. “I have never beaten any child at the school. Tell me, how did you get my number? What worries you; do you have a child at the school?” he asked before hanging up.

KwaZulu-Natal education head of department, Nkosinathi Sishi, said on Wednesday he was disgusted to hear that the school might still be using corporal punishment, despite it being banned.

“I will personally visit the school to investigate these claims,” he said, adding that if misconduct was proven it would lead to summary dismissal.

Sishi said the department was recently successfully sued for millions of rand by a now former pupil who was hit in the eye with the tip of a belt as a teacher was beating another pupil.

“They do not recognise that they are sick and need help,” said Sishi of teachers who beat children.

Another pupil said the teacher often boasted by telling them that the school would be performing well if he were the principal.

“It is difficult here. They need to stop this (corporal punishment) because it is against the law,” she said. “My painful leg is swollen. He strikes anywhere on the body. I am even contemplating dropping out of school. We have become a laughing stock to other school pupils. They often ask how do we cope with this?”

Five pupils claimed the teacher had also forced them to take a subject they had dropped years before.

They said they had to be in class by 6.30am or they would get beaten, and were also forced to attend compulsory classes on Saturdays from 8.30am until 3pm.

Pupils claimed the principal knew what was going on, but did little to stop it.

The principal could not be reached for comment because calls to his cellphone went to voicemail.

The pupils claimed they were afraid to report the matter to the police, and that their parents were not concerned about the matter.

Some pupils at the school were, however, not happy at the attention the matter was getting.

One pupil told the Daily News that she, too, had been beaten, but that she had deserved the punishment.

She then returned to the school grounds and a short while later a group of angry boys emerged from the school and circled the reporter’s car.

They threatened the reporter and photographer, warning that the car would be stoned if they did not leave.

“Please go away, we do not want our school to be (in) the newspapers,” said one boy.

“Just drive away and do not come back.”

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