As schools across South Africa continue to debate the issuing of corporal punishment within the classroom environment, the issue of violence within schools has recently been highlighted with the alleged assaulting of an educator at Strandfontein High School by a family member of a learner. The incident was allegedly in response to the teacher disciplining the learner.
Witnesses to the incident say that the Grade 8 geography teacher was “smacked about” by members of the notorious Fancy Boys gang.
Registered councellor with the Healthcare Professional Council of South Africa, Zainab Kader, explained that while violence is prevalent in schools, corporal punishment does not fit into the scope of the education system and instead advocates the implementation of consequences.
“When children are exposed to violent conditions, they at the end of the day require nurturing and love, which the classroom setting can provide.”
She said that various schools have adopted the use of detention, while others encourage learners to apologize or to pen positive notes to individuals whom they have hurt.
Kader, whose BPsych thesis explores the Effects of Family Conflict on Pre-Adolescents Externalising Basic Psychological Behaviour, said that these methods are introduced as corrective measures so that children can learn from their experiences, as opposed to receiving a hiding, which she asserts does not convey an understanding of the consequences of actions.
Kader further noted that schools in gang ridden areas require access control, as the safety of pupils and teachers is compromised.
“Sometimes it’s not gangsters, sometimes its parents; as much as parents have the right to complain, it depends on how and when they do it.”
She explained that in situations where a teacher is terrorized, the principle of the school and the Western Cape Education Department should be informed and, where necessary, a case should be opened.
Kader said that in impoverished areas the prevalent issues include; gangsterism, domestic violence and substance abuse, and consequently contributes to a child’s level of participation within the classroom setting.
“So a child will be concentrating on what the situation will be when they arrive at home, on what happened that morning, or whats currently happing at home.”
In addition, she explained that the home environment also contributes to the overall efficiency and productivity of learners, who in crowded homes are unable to complete homework or study.
“Some children have the responsibility of looking after younger siblings; some are even forced to leave school completely because they are required to look after their siblings while their parents go to work. While, some educators also come from these environments, all this impact the learning environment,” she continued.
Kader said that children who come from traumatic environments do not have the emotional capacity to relay their feelings in a healthy manner and instead act out since they seek a sense of autonomy where they do not feel controlled by their experiences.
The school environment she asserts is, therefore, vital to fostering a healthy environment in which children can flourish.
“I think there is much needed from Government to assist in managing these behavioural challenges. And while there are good structures in place, there is always room to improve the structures, in order to better aid teaches and children,” Kader concluded.