THE court case between SECTION27 and the South African Council for Educators (SACE) is back in the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday after two incidents of corporal punishment involving Grade 2 and Grade 5 learners whose assaulters received a light fine and continue to teach.
In December 2020, SECTION27, on behalf of the Centre for Child Law and the parents of two young learners (ages 7 and 10), initiated a case against the SACE for imposing lenient sanctions on two educators who pleaded guilty for assaulting learners in their classroom.
In South Africa, corporal punishment has been banned since 1996.
“We are taking SACE to court and requesting that it reconsiders the decisions it made in respect of the two educators, as well as revise its Mandatory Sanctions on Contraventions of the Code of Professional Ethics, a document used by SACE when sanctioning educators for misbehaviour, in an effort to protect learners from further harm and ensure that the ban on corporal punishment is taken seriously,” said the public interest law centre on Monday.
SACE, the professional body responsible for maintaining and protecting educators’ ethical and professional standards, is opposing the case.
Their code of professional ethics expressly states that educators must refrain from any form of abuse, physical or psychological, and they are mandated to investigate and sanction any educator found guilty of this behaviour.
“Therefore the body is one of the important institutions that can help address and stop the use of corporal punishment in schools,” said SECTION27 in a statement.
“Sadly, they are failing in this role by imposing very lenient sanctions on educators found guilty of corporal punishment, including suspended sentences or mere fines, without addressing teachers’ violent behaviour or equipping them with the tools to implement non-violent discipline strategies.”
SECTION27 said although corporal punishment has been banned from South African schools since 1996, teachers are still tragically using corporal punishment to discipline learners, thereby perpetuating the culture of violence and abuse that already characterises many South African Communities.
Countless reports of learners being hit, thrown with objects, or verbally abused in class indicate that the ban on corporal punishment is not being properly enforced in schools, said SECTION27.
Children’s Institute, represented by Equal Education Law Centre, has been admitted to the case as amicus curiae (friend of the court), and will be making submissions to support our relief.