Corporal punishment at school: what is your story?
The worst part of the story of Siphokazi Tyalidikazi who lost the use of her hand after a caning at school is that her abuse is not an isolated case.
Because she failed to complete her classwork, Siphokazi Tyalidikazi was beaten with a hosepipe by her grade 5 English teacher. It damaged a nerve in her right hand, leaving her unable to use her dominant hand and she had to relearn to write with her left hand. A case of assault has been opened.
In July last year, 19-year-old Paballo Seanne, the niece of Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi, died after allegedly receiving 45 lashes for failing tests at a private school. This case is also pending.
Despite corporal punishment being illegal in South African schools, hidings are still prevalent across the country's schools. CEO of the SA Council for Educators (Sace), Raj Brijraj, said last year that corporal punishment is the reason most often given for complaints they receive against teachers. Around 9 teachers had been striked off definitely (temporarily suspended pending a hearing) in the financial year 2014/15 and some have been striked off indefinitely (permanently).
Also read: Is spanking ever okay?
What is corporal punishment?
Corporal punishment, or physical punishment (corpus means body*), is defined by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as "any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light."
In its report "Violence Against Children in the Home and Family", it states that corporal punishment also includes the following:
- hitting (smacking, slapping, spanking, caning) children, with the hand or with an implement – whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, and so on;
- kicking, shaking or throwing children;
- scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears;
- forcing children to stay in uncomfortable or undignified positions or to take excessive exercise;
- burning, scalding or forced ingestion (for example, washing children’s mouths out with soap or forcing them to swallow hot spices).
It concluded: "In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading."
We'd like to hear your stories. We know many schools still dish out corporal punishment. Does it happen at your child's school? If so, how, and has a complaint been lodged? What's the worst recent story you've heard? We'll keep comments anonymous. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.