A new study has revealed that corporal punishment in public schools persists despite it being outlawed over 20 years ago. Picture: Jacques Naude/ANA
A new study has revealed that corporal punishment in public schools persists despite it being outlawed over 20 years ago. Picture: Jacques Naude/ANA

Study finds that corporal punishment still persists in public schools

By Chulumanco Mahamba Time of article published Aug 17, 2021

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Johannesburg - Corporal punishment in public schools in South Africa continues despite legislation prohibiting its use, with more boys as its main targets, a new study has found.

The SA Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit and Wits University’s School of Public Health published a study on PLOS One last week on the prevalence and factors associated with the experience of corporal punishment in public schools in South Africa.

For the study, about 3 743 Grade 8 learners (2 118 girls and 1 625 boys) from 24 selected public schools in Tshwane were surveyed in 2014.

The study revealed that there was a high prevalence of corporal punishment experienced by learners at schools, as more than half (52%) of the learners reported corporal punishment in the past six months.

“The findings of this study highlight a slightly higher prevalence compared to that found in a national study (49.8%) in 2012, and confirm that corporal punishment in public schools persists, despite it being outlawed over 20 years ago,” the study said.

Boys were more likely to experience corporal punishment compared to girls, as boys were perceived as naughty and mischievous.

The study said that with lack of support from both the parent or caregiver and the teacher, boys were more likely to perform poorly at school and the poor performance attracted corporal punishment.

“Experience of school corporal punishment among boys could be aimed at correcting their behaviour, based on the belief that physical punishment is effective in correcting deviant behaviour of children,” it said.

The team, led by Pinky Mahlangu from SAMRC, said the risk factors associated with learner experience of corporal punishment included the learner’s behaviour, home environment, school climate and other factors including the family’s socio-economic status and learners mental health.

The data showed that a learner’s home environment (exposure to physical violence, neglect and lack of caregiver kindness and support) had an indirect relationship with the experience of corporal punishment at school.

“The lack of caregiver support, and experience of neglect can contribute to misbehaviour which attracts corporal punishment at home and school,” the study said.

The team of researchers stated that there was an urgent need to break this cycle of violence by enforcing the law and holding accountable those who continue to use corporal punishment.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Global Report by Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, on prohibiting all corporal punishment of children, stated that over a billion children experience violence every year across the globe.

The researchers added that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased children’s risk of violence in every country and community.

Director of the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children Dr Shaheda Omar said that in spite of corporal punishment being banned from the school structure many years ago, there were still educators who are guilty of inflicting corporal punishment on learners.

“There needs to be zero tolerance and harsher measures,” Omar said.

She added that corporal punishment in schools conveyed a very strong message to South African children.

“It normalises that if a child is faced with a conflict situation or is in an altercation, the only way they can resolve it or overcome is by using violence.

“It perpetuates the cycle of violence,” she said.

The Star

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