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Saturday Star, Johannesburg, 9 February 1999
Spare the rod and fail
By Thembisile Makgalemele
Although corporal punishment was outlawed two years ago, a number of schools are still physically chastising pupils, the Saturday Star has found.
And many teachers say they believe that the old "Triple T" system Teach, Test and Thrash is the only way to curb deteriorating education standards.
While the days are long gone when teachers would wait with a cane at the gate to give late-comers and those who weren't obedient a lash, many teachers argue that a successful teacher is a stick-wielding teacher.
As a result, corporal punishment still exists in many township schools and even in some junior primary schools, where learners have complained of being slapped on their faces.
many of those who abide by the new rules still yearn for the old ways of strict discipline. Even some parents are sorry that the harsh old methods have been banned.
Eveline Zondo, from Diepkloof, whose children attend private schools, said: "How can you expect teachers to discipline children at school when some parents are also battling to discipline their own children? These days you don't know whether a child might punch you back or even shoot you. So I don't blame teachers for being scared."
At Aha-Thuto Secondary School in Orange Farm, which had a 96,5% matric pass rate last year, the governing body, teachers and learners through the students' representative council agreed that, in serious cases, a pupil can be given three lashes. "Detention and suspension don't work," said the principal, Goli Hadebe.
Teachers at Madibane Secondary School in Diepkloof, Soweto, said education standards had deteriorated because learners weren't disciplined. "When you ask questions, they just look at you, but when you touch a stick, they all raise their hands and answer correctly. the only method they understand is to teach, test and thrash them," said a teacher, who did not want to be named.
Teachers pointed out that the last time Madibane had good matric results was in 1994, when they were using corporal punishment. After the use of the stick was banned by education authorities countrywide in November 1996, the results showed a steady decline, the teachers claimed. Last year, out of 104 pupils, just 21 matriculated and only one got a university exemption.
The teachers would not give their names, claiming the government always used them as scapegoats, and they believed there would be retaliation for speaking to the media. They said it was impossible to suspend or detain pupils because many disappear for weeks, coming back when they want to.
"Instead, learners beat us and their parents," said a teacher.
Although pupils at Re a Soma secondary school in Protea, Soweto which produced an 89,9% matric pass rate said they were often spanked, principal Smileth Ntutela said the school had to stop the practice because pupils were now able to lay charges.
"But we stand together as teachers and it works," she added.
Policymakers and private school teachers, however, argue that corporal punishment has a negative impact.
St Stithians College in Randburg, which had a 100% matric pass rate last year, has a code of conduct, which is circulated to parents. A daily report on the progress and behaviour of pupils has to be signed by parents.
Every Friday there is a headmaster's detention for those who failed to fulfil their duties. For a misdemeanour there is a groundwork programme. If there is a pattern of disruption, the child will be spoken to and the parents called in.
While Madibane teachers said parents have a "don't care" attitude because they do not have to pay any money, St Stithians said support isn't a question of money but rather one of commitment from parents.
"If parents abdicate all responsibility for their child's education to the school, it would be difficult to deal with," said St Stithians' rector David Wylde.
Jeppe Boys High School uses a demerit system. Those who have accumulated three points in a week are detained. Other punishments include the headmaster's detention, where pupils come on a Saturday, in uniform, to do community service. They don't like it and would prefer to be caned.
Aubrey Matlole of the Democratic Teachers' Association said, however: "Failure rates shouldn't be associated with a lack of corporal punishment.
"Corporal punishment is one of the worst methods of motivating learners and has forced many learners to quit school. After all, corporal punishment was banned in order to protect teachers.
"Teachers are dealing with children who have access to dangerous weapons that come from the community into school properties," he said.
All Material © copyright Independent Newspapers 1999.
Sunday Times, Durban, 14 February 1999
Big-stick Shandu stuns teachers
New education minister's opening salvo draws flak
By Prega Govender
KWAZULU-Natal's new education minister has launched a scathing attack on Indian teachers, accusing them of arbitrary strike action and blaming them for the province's poor academic results.
Eileen Ka-Nkosi Shandu's comments are stirring hostile reaction from some educationists and unions. Educators were stunned this week when she said Indian teachers who joined unions were "jumping around and shouting for their rights".
Shandu said that Indian teachers had in the past set high education standards. "But they lately have got into the habit of going on strike for cleaning services, leaving the schools and the children unattended and results have gone down. They forget that parents of pupils also have rights." She warned that teachers who conducted union affairs, or private businesses, during teaching hours would face strong disciplinary action. "I can take you now and show you teachers who are conducting businesses from school premises. This is criminal."
But teacher unions and politicians were outraged at what is perceived as Shandu's opening salvo in the battle to address the chaotic state of education in the province. Roger Burrows, chairman of the education portfolio committee, slammed her comments.
"It was totally unacceptable and racially prejudicial in the extreme to damn a group simply for their community links," Burrows said.
"Many Indian teachers did not strike, many did not belong to Sadtu and the other unions which went on strike, and these teachers have put in every effort to make education work. Shandu must guard her tongue against those appalling slights. She must realise that agreement to allow union members to meet during school time was reached between the state and the unions more than two years ago," he said. Sadtu provincial secretary Ndaba Gcwabaza said if Shandu persisted with her unconstructive ideas she should resign "before starting her job proper". "Her comments on the Indian teachers sound very racist and it doesn't go down well with us. The question of Indian teachers striking was not an Indian issue but a provincial one."
Shandu was out of touch with reality by asking for the re-introduction of corporal punishment. "This is an outdated form of discipline. We are alarmed about what she is saying."
He said Shandu's comments indicated that she wanted to take education backwards, while her predecessor Vincent Zulu never knew where he was going with.
Preggie Naidoo, the Education Crisis Committee chairman, said the statements only served to alienate educators from the department. "She does not have an understanding of the crucial problems facing education in our province. For one who is just entering the education arena, her comments are inappropriate."
Teachers also slammed Shandu's remarks. A teacher from a Phoenix primary school said Indian teachers had a proven track record for excellence. "The teachers' protest actions were valid. It's not fair to pick on the Indian teachers," he said.
Another teacher said most of his colleagues were disgruntled by the remarks.
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