Produced & edited by: Holly Moody
No matter what country a child lives in, there is a chance he or she will be subject to bullying by his or her classmates.
However, most students in the U.S. do not ever have to fear their teachers physically abusing them.
Corporal Punishment Persists in South Africa
Corporal punishment has been illegal in South African schools since 1996, but because violence, especially against women and children, has been an unfortunate part of the country’s culture for a long time, it is going to take more than a law passed to get child abuse out of the schools.
“The school is a place where all students should feel safe and when teachers use physical acts of violence against their students, it not only creates a lot of distrust between the student and teacher, but the kids learn that if you are bigger and stronger than another person, it’s ok to use physical violence,” said Divya Naidoo, a director at Save the Children South Africa.
Save the Children South Africa is working hard to implement their seven step program to help teachers move away from using physical punishment and to teach them positive, alternative ways to discipline students that are effective.
“Most teachers were raised at a time where it was acceptable to hit students so when you take something away from them, you can’t just expect that they won’t use it (physical abuse),” Naidoo said. “The solution – even more than just disciplining the teachers – is to teach them something of value that they can use in its place.”
|Corporal punishment is illegal in South Africa's schools. (via Wordpress)|
Gertie Pretorius, director of the Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development at the University of Johannesburg, said that “the mental effects (both long-term and short-term) – of violent behavior towards youth – can range from depression and anxiety to personality disorders.”
|Corporal punishment persists in South Africa's schools.(via creative commons)|
Corporal Punishment Stems from Domestic Abuse in Homes
Abuse against young people does not stop at the schools though. Domestic violence is a big issue as well.
“There needs to be a whole mindset change when it comes to treating women and children,” said Naidoo.
She explained that women are not high on the agenda in South Africa and it is hard for men to accept women as successful.
“A lot of men don’t have very high self-esteem, so they gain it by abuse,” she said.
Naidoo stressed that parents need to stop seeing their kids as their property and thinking they can do whatever they want to their kids.
Qunita Brown, a research intern at CJCP, thinks that school violence is an issue that needs to be addressed in the home environment first in order for any real change to occur.
“It is challenging for teachers and parents to tackle violence against children because many of these children are exposed to violence on a daily basis,” said Brown. “Children are raised in homes where their caregivers or significant others model violent and aggressive behaviors, conveying the message that it is acceptable to use violence to assert one’s dominance over another. This is often exacerbated by the reinforcement of these messages in their communities and schools, which puts them at considerable risk for victimization as well as perpetration of violence.”
Lana Jacobson, an award-winning South African journalist and author, thinks the issue of violence against young people is due to lack of fatherly influence and it can be drawn back to the Apartheid times – when the men left their wives and children behind to find work.
“They migrated to the big cities and the culture of the lack of responsibility and sharing in upbringing became uncalculated and it still exists; poverty also plays a part,” said Jacobson.
The outlook for severely reducing corporal punishment in the schools and home is looking brighter with the issue now being near the forefront of the public agenda. There are several organizations working closely with the schools and getting information out to the general public to educate the teachers and parents. According to Brown, there is still a long way to go though as many teachers are still ill-equipped to employ non-violent means of discipline in the classroom and many parents are still not educated about the effects of violent behavior on kids.
“Only by dealing with all aspects of the system will violence ultimately be reduced and eradicated,” she said.