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Weekend Post, Port Elizabeth, 29 May 2006

Caning still popular at ECape schools

By Sbongile Dimbaza

Public schools in the Eastern Cape are still caning children, even though corporal punishment was banned more than a decade ago.

The practice is most prevalent in township schools, where children are often unaware that it is against the law.

Weekend Post spoke to pupils at nine Eastern Cape township schools. At all of them, the children reported regularly witnessing corporal punishment of pupils by teachers and principals. However, most of the pupils questioned did not consider this form of discipline unacceptable.

Section 10 of the SA Schools Act ([SASA) applies to corporal punishment and contravention of it could result in a teacher being charged with assault.

In 1995 the Constitutional Court, in the case of the State v Williams, outlawed the use of corporal punishment. The ruling was immediately implemented in the education system with a clause in the Act banning this form of punishment in all schools, public or private.

In Bhisho, education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani confirmed that the department knew corporal punishment was being meted out at some schools. But it was up to each school's management body to put a stop to it.

He said the last official report the department had received of a teacher who had contravened the province's no-caning policy was "probably two years ago".

Pupils and former pupils, however, tell a different story.

Andile April, who matriculated at Molly Blackburn High School in Uitenhage last year, said teachers at the school used caning to "motivate and reinforce discipline among pupils".

But the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University first- year student said he was not opposed to the continuation of the "six of the best" practice as it had led to improved academic results at the school. Six pupils had obtained A-aggregates in last year's final exams.

Molly Blackburn principal Vuyisile Jonas admitted that it was possible "some teachers indulge in this practice without my knowledge, but I totally condemn it". He denied April's claim that the school's academic success could be attributed to this punishment.

Mawande Magadla, a Grade 9 pupil at Sophakama High in New Brighton, said caning at his school was considered a "deterrent for unruly and unmotivated pupils".

Classmate Bathandwa Sambu said corporal punishment was the "main deterrent in township schools".

Thamsanqa, a Grade 8 pupil at Kwazakhele High, said some teachers took caning "a bit far" if they had personal scores to settle. "At times you're punished more than necessary."

To many primary school pupils it was part of the teaching process.

Principals at most of the schools Weekend Post contacted either refused to comment or did not admit to caning pupils.

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