Mpumalanga’s cane-using teachers financially punished

Some teachers in Mpumalanga know that caning schoolchildren can result in loss of income.

An investigation involving African Eye News Service, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the provincial education department has revealed that more than 50 teachers were punished for using corporal punishment at their schools between the 2012/13 and 2014/15 financial years.

These included two teachers whom AENS photographed while caning latecomers at Bhekiswako Secondary School in Bhekiswako Trust near Hazyview in 2014.

"Corporal punishment constitutes gross misconduct and anyone who finds himself inflicting it on the learners will face disciplinary action in accordance with the Employment of Educators' Act. We urge all the educators to refrain from inflicting corporal on the learners because it has been abolished. Violating the Act may result in loss of income," said department spokesman Gerald Sambo on Thursday.

According to departmental documents that AENS has seen, at least 57 teachers were found guilty of violating the Employment of Educators' Act in terms of using corporal punishment at their schools.

The data, over three financial years, shows that various fines were imposed against the offending teachers.

Some got off with as little as a R700 fine while others had to pay up to R10 000, which was deducted from their salaries.

Others were not so lucky. They were suspended between a period of one month and three months without any salary, losing tens of thousands in the process. At least only one was dismissed while two others resigned during their disciplinary processes.

Sambo said there were alternatives to handling misbehaving children.

"The department has partnered with Save the Children to implement positive discipline in schools. In this programme the department is training School Management Teams and educators about alternatives to corporal punishment.

"Development of Code of Conduct for Learners, School Governing Bodies and School Management Teams are trained on Policy Development. The Code of Conduct for Learners is one of those policies which must be developed by schools. These policies must comply with existing Acts in curbing corporal punishment in schools," he said.

Sambo added that Child Protection Week was also used to create aware against corporal punishment at schools.

"The department working with the South African Police Services, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development as part of the Integrated School Safety Strategy implement programmes to celebrate the rights of children annually during the Child Protection Week. Schools are urged during this programme to protect learners from various issues including corporal punishment," he said.

However, the DA is not impressed with the department's efforts to curb violence against pupils.

"The increase in reports indicates that the punishment for practicing corporal punishment does not fit the crime because while the education department benefits financially, learners have to continue facing their offenders daily, leaving them with psychological damage that could affect them for the rest of their lives," said DA member of the provincial legislature Jane Sithole. "The DA calls on the MEC of Education to safeguard the rights of learners and ensure that those who are found guilty of beating learners face the full might of the law and where necessary, are removed from the education system."