Many of us can remember the horror of your teacher telling you that they are going to call your parents in to discuss your misbehaviour.
At that moment, your mind would go into business mode, and you would find yourself ready to strike a deal with the teacher just so that your parents wouldn’t find out about your misdemeanour. But you knew the teacher enjoyed seeing that look of fear in your eyes, and your efforts were sure to go unsuccessful so you wouldn’t even try.
This is why it comes as almost no surprise that a recent study titled Corporal punishment contestations, paradoxes and implications for school leadership: A case study of two South African high schools found, as part of their research, that African children specifically often prefer corporal punishment as opposed to having their parents called in.
“[African learners] seem to prefer corporal punishment as opposed to having their parents called to the school, whereas to the coloured learners would rather call their parents to the school to argue on their behalf,” said one of the participating teachers of the study.
We spoke to two adults to find out if they agreed with this particular reasoning and to share their thoughts on corporal punishment in general. Sizakele Madlala (29) says that when she was still a scholar, she would’ve definitely preferred being disciplined at school than to have her parents called in.
“I would’ve rather got it over and done with at school, because at home, I knew I was going to see flames. The beating I would’ve got at school would’ve probably not compared to the one I would’ve received at home,” Madlala says.
She does however add that she believes that corporal punishment in school’s should remain illegal because she believes that it promotes violence.
“Honestly, I’m not for corporal punishment – I truly believe that speaking to a child helps. We grew up in a time where our parents didn’t want to hear anything from us, but now I think there’s a lot more opportunity for us to talk and listen to kids, and not teach them that violence is the answer,” she says.
Bulelwa Dayimani (31) on the other hand says that she would’ve rather opted for a parent to come to the school than to be subjected to corporal punishment.
“I believe that corporal punishment is actually a form of abuse. For the mere fact that one remembers quite vividly some of the beatings they got from school in their adulthood, already indicates that the experience was often times traumatic. It also makes a child think that they can’t reason with people, and that if they want things done a certain way, they have to resort to violence to get the result – which is wrong,” Dayimani explains.
Both Madlala and Dayimani’s view on corporal punishment at schools in general is aligned with one argument that the study highlights that’s against the use of corporal punishment.
“In using corporal punishment to respond to learners’ unacceptable behaviour, the teachers model a behaviour which the learners may imitate later. Such imitation may be demonstrated through solving conflict with violence since children who experience violence are likely to use violence to solve problems,” the paper writes.
In conclusion, the study found that even though corporal punishment has been banned in South Africa for almost 20 years – it is still practiced in some schools and that its use remains a matter of contestation on many grounds.
“It is a doubly paradoxical that, within schools, there are teachers who show potential to lead the fight against corporal punishment, but that this potential is not exploited; and that some learners still see the place of corporal punishment, where they ought to be, in our view, fighting against it,” the study concludes.