Children’s Perceptions of Corporal Punishment Revealed in PhD Research
Perceptions of corporal punishment by children - giving recognition to their voices as potential victims of such punishment despite it being banned in South African schools in 1996 - were evaluated by Dr Londeka Ngubane in her thesis for a PhD in Criminology.
‘Corporal punishment does not achieve what it intends to, and its use has become obsolete in democratic societies. Schools are meant to be safe places where learners can fulfil their educational needs,’ said Ngubane.
‘However, the problems that emanate from the persistent use of corporal punishment not only perpetuate the cycle of child abuse, they impact negatively on academic performance and perpetuate a culture of violence in our vulnerable societies.’
Ngubane was awarded a scholarship from the National Research Foundation (NRF) for her research. Such funding is awarded to full-time masters and doctoral candidates to pursue research studies in all areas of Science, Engineering, Technology, Social Sciences and Humanities, including Priority Research Areas at South African public universities.
‘The scholarship was a great help as I was able to use it when travelling to present at local conferences,’ she said.
Ngubane’s study found that some educators in South Africa still used corporal punishment despite knowing it was banned.
‘Corporal punishment ranged in severity and for diverse reasons and it had adverse physical and emotional effects on learners. A minority of the learners supported this form of punishment, seeing it as effective in curbing misbehaviour in schools,’ said Ngubane.
Her findings also suggest that some learners have become so insensitive to the pain inflicted by corporal punishment that their undesirable behaviour is exacerbated rather than curbed. ‘One of the highlights of my research was a sit-down with children I was interviewing. I learned that most of them were not even aware that they were being victimised. I was glad to add to the existing body of knowledge and even happier that they now know their rights.’
Ngubane thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support.
Offering advice to other researchers, she said: ‘Writing a dissertation is challenging and there are times when you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel! Keep challenging yourself and get your priorities right and you will be done before you know it!’
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan