Corporal punishment is taboo in schools since 1997. But what does discipline in schools look like today? How do schools keep learners in line and what are their rights? What can your kid do if teachers violate his personal rights? Here’s a quick glance at the facts.
Discipline in schools – How teachers discipline pupils
Corporal punishment, which is against the law in South Africa, intends grievous bodily harm and violates the rights of a child. But there’s a difference between corporal punishment and discipline. Discipline is about teaching acceptable behaviours and unlearning negative behaviours. Discipline gives support, guidance, and direction in managing certain behaviours.
These days, the aim of schools is to maintain a safe and dignified schooling environment for learners. Reward charts, merit and demerit systems, privileges, time-outs, detention and community service are viable options for teachers.
The laws on discipline in schools
We have a few laws that protect students from corporal punishment and abuse at school. According to Section 12(1) of the Constitution, everyone has the right to freedom and security. This also includes the rights to be free from all forms of violence. It includes the right not to be tortured, treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.
Section 10(1) of the South Africa Schools Act says that nobody may administer corporal punishment at a school against a student. People that fail to adhere to this law commit criminal offences and may receive sentences imposed for assault.
What if abuse happens at school?
Teachers or school staff that violates a child’s right may be liable to legal processes. Section 110 of the Children’s Act states that educators have to report abuse to the authorities. Complaints of corporal punishment go to the district office who might refer the case to the Labour Relations Directorate for further investigations. According to the Employment of Educators Act, there are different consequences for misconduct and serious misconduct.
In the event of abuse in school, a learner needs to escalate the complaint to the highest authorities. They can report cases to the Head of Department (HOD) or the principal of the school. The next step is the school governing body. Incidences can also be reported to the Department of Social Development, Department of Education, the police, and the South African Council for Educators.