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Alarm over survey on violence in PE schools

Theft, discrimination, sexual abuse among incidents reported by pupils

An alarming number of school pupils have reported being victims of violence
An alarming number of school pupils have reported being victims of violence
Image: Werner Hills

Violence in schools has been thrust into the spotlight, with a survey of five schools in Port Elizabeth’s Walmer area reporting alarming statistics of pupils either being robbed, discriminated against or sexually abused.

Of the 361 pupils surveyed, 98.1% said they had experienced “direct violence” while at school.

The survey was done by the Umhlali Project.

The schools surveyed were Walmer Primary, John Masiza Higher Primary, Settlers Park Primary, Walmer High and Elukholweni Primary.

In a breakdown of the information, the survey states:

  • Roughly 82% of those who had experienced the direct violence classified it as corporal punishment;
  • About 74.8% had been verbally abused; and
  • Some 68.4% of pupils reported having objects thrown at them.

Topping the list of the types of violence experienced by pupils was theft at 85%, while other forms included sexual violence at 9.42%, discrimination at 33.2%, cyber-bullying at 6.1%, weapons at 6.9%, and gang violence at 4.1%.

Some of the pupils – about 71.8% – have experienced violence at home with either a belt, whip or shoe. The alarming statistics were released late last year, more than two decades after the Abolition of Corporal Punishment Act was implemented.

It followed the Constitutional Court’s 1995 decision in the case of S v Williams and Others that caning of juveniles was unconstitutional.

The Learner Schools Survey was conducted in October and included 361 pupils – 257 primary and 104 high school pupils – ranging from Grade 6 to matric.
Education expert Susan van Rensburg has previously suggested positive punishment to discipline pupils.

“There are laws governing corporal punishment. If nothing changes, how do you expect the children to?

“There needs to be positive punishment – for instance, they can take away one of their privileges or, like I used to do, give the children no homework on Fridays if they behave during the week, and so on.

“But beating children is out of the question.”

Walmer High School principal Lunga Dyani said the results were not a fair reflection of the reality of the situation in township schools.

“There is no corporal punishment that takes place here as it is illegal.

“The only form of punishment we use is detention where pupils are made to do chores around the school,” Dyani said.

“The survey fails to address the issue of pupil-on-pupil violence, which is the most prevalent element in schools.

“It is natural for teachers to lose their cool as a result of repeatedly having to reprimand pupils for the same things, but no corporal punishment happens here.”

A senior staff member at John Masiza Primary School, who asked not be named, said: “You don’t understand. These children aren’t disciplined at home and it translates in the class. We are told we can’t shout too harshly, we can’t administer corporal punishment. What are we supposed to do?

“We receive no training with regard to discipline, and detention doesn’t even help because at the end of the day these kids just sneak out with the crowd.

“You can’t suspend them because they get swallowed by the townships and their influences.”

Education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said action would be taken against any teacher caught inflicting corporal punishment in schools.

Of the 361 pupils surveyed, 98.1% said they had experienced “direct violence” while at school.

The survey was done by the Umhlali Project.

The schools surveyed were Walmer Primary, John Masiza Higher Primary, Settlers Park Primary, Walmer High and Elukholweni Primary.

In a breakdown of the information, the survey states:

  • Roughly 82% of those who had experienced the direct violence classified it as corporal punishment;
  • About 74.8% had been verbally abused; and
  • Some 68.4% of pupils reported having objects thrown at them.

Topping the list of the types of violence experienced by pupils was theft at 85%, while other forms included sexual violence at 9.42%, discrimination at 33.2%, cyber-bullying at 6.1%, weapons at 6.9%, and gang violence at 4.1%.

Some of the pupils – about 71.8% – have experienced violence at home with either a belt, whip or shoe. The alarming statistics were released late last year, more than two decades after the Abolition of Corporal Punishment Act was implemented.

It followed the Constitutional Court’s 1995 decision in the case of S v Williams and Others that caning of juveniles was unconstitutional.

The Learner Schools Survey was conducted in October and included 361 pupils – 257 primary and 104 high school pupils – ranging from Grade 6 to matric.
Education expert Susan van Rensburg has previously suggested positive punishment to discipline pupils.

“There are laws governing corporal punishment. If nothing changes, how do you expect the children to?

“There needs to be positive punishment – for instance, they can take away one of their privileges or, like I used to do, give the children no homework on Fridays if they behave during the week, and so on.

“But beating children is out of the question.”

Walmer High School principal Lunga Dyani said the results were not a fair reflection of the reality of the situation in township schools.

“There is no corporal punishment that takes place here as it is illegal.

“The only form of punishment we use is detention where pupils are made to do chores around the school,” Dyani said.

“The survey fails to address the issue of pupil-on-pupil violence, which is the most prevalent element in schools.

“It is natural for teachers to lose their cool as a result of repeatedly having to reprimand pupils for the same things, but no corporal punishment happens here.”

A senior staff member at John Masiza Primary School, who asked not be named, said: “You don’t understand. These children aren’t disciplined at home and it translates in the class. We are told we can’t shout too harshly, we can’t administer corporal punishment. What are we supposed to do?

“We receive no training with regard to discipline, and detention doesn’t even help because at the end of the day these kids just sneak out with the crowd.

“You can’t suspend them because they get swallowed by the townships and their influences.”

Education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said action would be taken against any teacher caught inflicting corporal punishment in schools.

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