Pain for the cane
By Kuben Chetty, Bongani Mthembu and Sapa
Daily News, June 7, 2004

An Umlazi secondary school principal is in hot water after SABC television news footage showed him caning pupils as they arrived late at school.

The news broadcast on Sunday said the footage was produced by a hidden camera.

In reaction to the footage, KwaZulu-Natal's minister of education, Ina Cronje, told television news that she was "really horrified", and that educators who meted out corporal punishment would have no protection from her department. "They are on their own committing a criminal offence," she said.

'They are on their own committing a criminal offence' Sunday evening's footage showed the school principal of Qhilika Secondary standing at the gates of the school caning latecomers.

The school apparently has a policy of giving extra morning lessons. This means that some pupils have to be at school by 6.30am. The gates are then closed and reopened at 7.30am, when latecomers are caned.

Provincial education department spokesperson Mandla Msibi said several teachers had been suspended since the beginning of the year for meting out corporal punishment. "We have been sending out the message on alternative forms of punishment but those educators who use the outlawed methods will face the wrath of the department."

He said the department has launched a full investigation into the matter.

The chairperson of the school's governing body, Mbonwa Mkhungo, said he was shocked by what he saw on TV. "I know that corporal punishment is illegal and was disturbed to see it being carried out at the school.

'The children are hit repeatedly all over their bodies' "We are going to have an urgent meeting with the teachers and the governing body to discuss the matter," he said.

A parent at the school, who requested anonymity, said children had to make their way to school in the dark early winter hours or face daily corporal punishment.

"What is worse is that the children are hit repeatedly all over their bodies and not just on their hands," the worried mother said. "We expect them to punish the children in other ways but the school insists this is the best method."

In the past week, Thuthuka Zuma, 16, a pupil at Phezulu Secondary at Hammarsdale, died after allegedly being caned by the principal. The principal has been suspended pending an investigation.

Cronje condemned that incident, which took place on International Children's Day.

National co-ordinator for Childline, Joan van Niekerk, said corporal punishment was a countrywide problem.

"We have found that violent forms of discipline have an impact on the future bad behaviour of students."

She said many incidents were reported to them but were withdrawn after children complained of being victimised or "paid-off" to withdraw the allegations.

This article was originally published on page 1 of The Daily News on June 07, 2004

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