File picture: Pixabay

The Western Cape Education Department has expressed concern over allegations that corporal punishment is rife at Paarl Boys High School in the Cape Winelands.

However, attempts to address the problem are being stonewalled by parents who do not want their children to speak out.

On Thursday, News24 reported that six sources had confirmed that there was a "culture of corporal punishment" at the school and that pupils were severely punished for transgressions like not doing homework. At the centre of the claims made by six sources interviewed by News24 was the school's deputy headmaster and head of discipline Richard Visagie.

The school reportedly denied all the allegations made in the article, but the province's education department says that they have received a number of complaints.

"Cape Winelands Education District has received several complaints regarding corporal punishment at Paarl Boys High School but in attempts to investigate allegations of corporal punishment, parents were not prepared to allow their children to testify in this regard," said WCED spokesperson Jessica Shelver, adding that the complaints were referred to the WCED Labour Relations department for investigation.  

According to Shelver, one educator was charged with misconduct for reportedly hitting a pupil in 2018 and received a final written warning and a fine in October last year.

"A new complaint was received on the 23rd January 2019 from a doctor who was reportedly treating a learner that was allegedly assaulted by a teacher. The parents of the alleged learner have reportedly again been reluctant to give consent for consultations. The matter is still under investigation," she said.

Shelver stressed that while corporal punishment in schools was prohibited in terms of the South African Schools Act (SASA), 1996 (Act 84 of 1996) and the National Education Policy Act (NEPA), 1996 (Act 27 of 1996), the WCED could only act if people are prepared to come forward and give evidence.

"The Western Cape Education Department has a zero-tolerance policy on corporal punishment," said Shelver.

"We encourage learners, parents and schools to report incidents of corporal punishment to the department. Learners can report any form of abuse, intimidation, victimisation or violence to the WCEDs Safe Schools hotline – 0800 45 46 47. Parents are also encouraged to report incidents to the Principal of the school, and/or the District office."