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School CP - August 2001

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African Eye News Service, Nelspruit, 8 August 2001

Mpumalanga Probes Illegal Corporal Punishment At Schools

By Justin Arenstein
in Nelspruit

Mpumalanga Premier Ndaweni Mahlangu on Wednesday appointed a commission of inquiry into the continuing unlawful use of corporal punishment at provincial schools.

Provincial spokeswoman Joy Letlonkane said that the three-member commission would focus on allegations of systematic abuse at the private Cefups Academy near the capital Nelspruit.

The commission would also review other isolated reports of corporal punishment at private and government schools in the province.

Corporal punishment is outlawed in terms of the SA Schools Act. The investigation was sparked when over 200 disgruntled Cefups pupils marched on the provincial legislature in June to demonstrate against public floggings, humiliation and inadequate facilities at the exclusive school.

Pupils showed shocked politicians welts and raw wounds on their backs, legs and buttocks that were allegedly caused by sjambok beatings. The pupils also alleged they were regularly locked in solitary confinement in a faeces-filled 'dungeon' for complaining about health and accommodation standards at the school.

Three former teachers confirmed the allegations, adding that adult staff at the school were also regularly sjamboked by controversial school owner and president Simon Mkhatshwa. The revelations prompted visits by a SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) team, legislature delegation and parent groups.

Provincial education MEC Craig Padayachee also publicly threatened criminal charges against Mkhatshwa, noting that the controversial businessman was no stranger to the dock.

Mkhatshwa was sentenced to three months in jail or a R1 000 fine in 1999 after being convicted for publicly sjamboking the academy's English teacher Lindie Maphanga.

He also appeared in court in 1997 after allegedly squeezing and twisting a 19-year-old pupil's testicles in front of the school assembly because the youth had been caught sleeping in class. The assault charges were dismissed when witnesses were too scared to testify against Mkhatshwa.

Mkhatshwa remained unrepentant this week, insisting that pupils had rejected all self-discipline since the SAHRC ordered the school to cease corporal punishment.

Mkhatshwa claimed that a Grade Nine boarder had since been caught with nine matchboxes of dagga, while 10 other boys hired a prostitute to spend the night in their hostel. Another Grade Nine pupil has also, he said, since been stabbed to death after sneaking out to drink in a neighbouring tavern.

Mkhatshwa has repeatedly stressed that the school's strict discipline had enabled it to maintain an average 97% pass rate over the past six years.

Letlonkane said that the national government had published an 'Alternatives to Corporal Punishment' handbook that could be used to develop disciplinary systems based on non-violent measures.

The commission, headed by education misconduct specialist Dan Mohlamonyane, education district director Solomon Motshana and school circuit manager MD Mhlanga, is expected to report back to government next month. - African Eye News Service

Copyright © 2001 African Eye News Service.

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