Corporal Punishment: Beyond Hopelessness and Helplessness
The School of Education recently hosted the first in a series of five colloquia on safer, more inclusive schools, the focus for 2018 was on corporal punishment. The colloquia form part of a special project of the Dean of the School, Professor Thabo Msibi.
The three-day corporal punishment colloquium, held on the Edgewood campus, incorporated hermeneutic conversations and keynote presentations to offer insights into the phenomenon and to advance the view of schools as gentle, humanising spaces.
Attending the session were learners, teachers, parents, school leaders, members of professional bodies, student teachers and academic scholars who shared their experiences, perspectives and scholarship.
Msibi hopes the colloquium will trigger conversations on corporal punishment and violence in schools, leading to change in schools and an overall positive impact. He reflected on teacher murders, learners beaten by teachers, teacher safety in schools, teacher violence and the role of social media in creating awareness.
‘This is a national crisis where violence is normalised in society and in schools. It is reflective of societal problems. We should not play the blame game instead we need urgent intervention. Higher Education Institutions and South Africans need to work together to bring about change,’ said Msibi.
Student teachers Ms Phakamile Mazibuko and Ms Viloshni Goolam Mohammed also shared their experiences and observations on corporal punishment. Mazibuko talked of corporal punishment at home, noticing it perpetuated in schools. This led to learners absconding classes, violence, increase in drop-out rate, suicide and depression amongst learners. ‘We have become an angry society. We should be creating peace and harmony, advocating for change and being agents of change in our own homes and communities,’ said Mazibuko.
Goolam Mohammed suggests that ‘teachers be taught how to address violence in schools with practical demonstrations instead of drawing on theory only.’
Delivering the keynote address was Professor Deevia Bhana who discussed her topic: To End Corporal Punishment, End Violence in South Africa: Gendered and Generational Hierarchies and Resistance in Schools.
For the past 20 years, Bhana has been involved in researching and working with gender violence, sexuality and children. She noted that all violence is gendered and addressing violence requires attention to gender and the relations between men and women, boys and girls.
She suggests that intervention needed includes the encouraging learners to report corporal punishment; increasing children’s access to social media to report; working with teachers to redefine alternate paths to supporting ‘discipline’; working with pre-service teacher education; addressing wide spread inequalities in South Africa; addressing the scourge of rape, masculine violence and domination; structural factors of poverty and the mobilisation of everyone to end corporal punishment.
Words and photographs: Melissa Mungroo