Violence at schools is on the rise.
The former head of Childline and now a consultant on child rights and child protection, Joan van Niekerk, says increased violence levels in society at large are manifesting in schoolyard assaults and brawls and the use of corporal punishment despite its being banned.
This in the wake of a series of disturbing videos involving violence at schools having emerged over the past month.
The KwaZulu Natal Department of Basic Education at the weekend revealed that it had been made aware of footage of canings at two different schools in the province.
One set of footage, believed to have been shot at Okumhlophe Secondary School in Umlazi, shows a female teacher hitting a girl with a long, wooden stick.
The girl is seated at a desk and the teacher beats her on the upper part of her back repeatedly. The girl screams and writhes but the teacher continues regardless.
The teacher can also be seen caning a male pupil in a similar fashion.
In the other footage, believed to have been taken at an unidentified Kokstad school, a male teacher is seen using a stick or a pipe to whip at a male pupil’s open hands over and over again.
Earlier this month, a shocking video of a schoolgirl being violently assaulted by a male pupil at Siyathuthuka High School - in Inanda, north of Durban - emerged on Twitter.
Days later, the department released footage of vicious brawling - involving the use of pangas - at Richards Bay Secondary School on the North Coast.
Then pupils at George Campbell Technical High School in Durban started protesting against racism and videos of them pushing teachers while pulling their peers out of class, emerged.
Van Niekerk said yesterday that school violence was not new.
“It’s been an ongoing issue for some time now,” she said.
But it was on the rise.
On corporal punishment, Van Niekerk said teachers were important role models for children and their inflicting violence on their charges was “something we should be concerned about”.
“This way of discipling is going to continue and be passed on to the next generation,” she said.
She said despite corporal punishment having been outlawed in the 1990s, teachers were still using it.
“I really do believe discipline should begin in a child's home and many teachers feel almost abandoned by parents, because there is no discipline at home,” Van Niekerk said.
She said in some instances, parents actually requested that teachers beat their children for them.
“Which is really unfortunate. If there’s a problem at home, it’s a parent’s responsibility to deal with it,” she said, “And in any case, corporal punishment is a poor form of discipline."
The department’s Kwazi Mthethwa at the weekend reiterated that corporal punishment was illegal. He said no child should be made to feel like they deserve such punishment, or that it was normal practice.
“We expect the affected learners to report such incidents to a parent, guardian, teacher or to any person they may trust,” he said.
He said the department would be taking action against the teachers involved in the latest videos.
A delegation is expected to visit Okumhlophe today.
* In respect of the situation at George Campbell, Mthethwa said on Friday that three pupils who had “instigated” the disruption of teaching and learning, assaulted teachers and pupils, were being suspended.
A full scale investigation has been instituted to look into various issues at the school, including financial mismanagement.