African Eye News Service (South Africa), March 15, 2000

Debates to seek alternatives to corporal punishment at schools
by Sharon Hammond

Pietersburg - The continued use of corporal punishment at rural schools in Northern Province has prompted the SA Human Rights Commission to introduce a series of debates on the issue. The debates will be launched on Human Rights Day next Tuesday.

Provincial SAHRC co-ordinator, Ntshole Mabapa, said on Wednesday that 14 township and rural schools had been identified to participate in the debates.

"The intention is to get the schools to come up with ideas to instill discipline instead of resorting to corporal punishment," she explained.

She said only rural and township schools had been targeted as corporal punishment was not prevalent in the towns and cities. The debates will begin in earnest in April, with two schools from each of the province's seven regions participating. The debates will culminate in a large provincial debate in September.

The SAHRC has been operating in the province for only a year, but has identified serious human rights abuses in what is South Africa's poorest and most rural region.

Mabapa said the abuse of women and farm workers was especially problematic and that a series of human rights debates would also be held to address these issues.

She said Northern Province residents knew very little about their rights.

"We have realised there is a serious lack of awareness of the Constitution, human rights and knowledge on how to access institutions for assistance," she explained.

The human rights debate on corporal punishment is being organised in conjunction with the South African Council of Churches, which started training volunteers last week who will go to the worst performing schools in the province to impart management skills.

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