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School CP - February 2007

Corpun file 18928

Sunday Tribune, Pietermaritzburg, 25 February 2007

Mother lays assault charges against teacher

By Chris Makhaye

An Umbumbulu teacher is in hot water after caning pupils for not wearing their school ties.

A teacher at Phindela Higher Primary, in Golokodo district, gave 13 pupils five lashes each on their backsides with a cane two weeks ago.

One Grade 6 pupil, Siyabonga Mzulwini, 13, was given an extra five lashes for the alleged verbal abuse of another pupil.

Siyabonga's mother, Thandi Mzulwini, has laid an assault charge against the teacher and wants to report him to education authorities.

Corporal punishment is banned in South Africa, but teachers, especially in rural KwaZulu-Natal, are still using the cane.

KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Ina Cronje's spokesperson, Christie Naude, said the department would study the case and take appropriate action.

Mzulwini said her son was severely bruised after his beating.

"He was green on his backside, with several marks showing where he was caned," she said.

Mzulwini said she worked in Durban and only visited her Umbumbulu home (where her son Siyabonga lives with her parents) at weekends.

"When I came home, he told me he was hit for nothing. He said if I did not go to the police and to the school he would commit suicide. The next Monday I sent him to the doctor and also went to the school where the principal and the teacher said they were too busy to talk to me.

"I only wanted an explanation from them, why they had to hit Siyabonga like that. But they ran away from me. Then I went straight to the local police station to open the assault charge," she said.

"I want to teach this teacher a lesson that will serve as a warning to others that hitting children is wrong, because it does not help the children. It traumatises them."

Several pupils confirmed that teachers at the school constantly used hand and backside lashing to "discipline" them.

"Things are very strict at the school. Teachers say they hit us because we don't listen," said one Grade 5 pupil.

Principal M R Ngcobo declined to answer questions about why pupils were being subjected to corporal punishment. He referred all inquiries to the head office of the department of education.

"All I can say is that we are still going to talk to Siyabonga's mother and the teacher concerned," he said.

Naude said although corporal punishment in schools was against the law, some teachers were known to use it. "There are cases pending where educators are facing charges of caning pupils," she said.

Naude said this could range from anything from a fine to suspension or dismissal.

"According to the new school guidelines, uniforms cannot be an obstacle to learning. So no pupil should be penalised or sent home for not wearing a school uniform," said Naude.

Independent Online 2005. All rights reserved.

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