Reports, Studies, Reviews and Research

Promoting Effective Enforcement of the Prohibition Against Corporal Punishment in South African Schools

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PULP, Pretoria University Law Press

In 1996, South Africa passed the South African Schools Act to ban all forms of corporal punishment. After two decades, the South Africa government shall present reports to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Findings, however, are grave.

Despite the protection afforded to learners against corporal punishment, the practice is rife in South Africa schools. According to Statistics South Africa’s latest GHS data, 15,8 percent of all learners experienced corporal punishment in schools in 2012. This figure amounts to approximately 2.2 million learners who experienced corporal punishment in 2012. In some provinces the incidence is significantly higher than in others. Moreover, in some provinces the incidence is increasing.

This report finds that there is a clear tendency for the number of learners that are experiencing some form of corporal punishment in schools to exceed the number of educators who are being sanctioned for practicing corporal punishment. This is as a result of the fact that most cases of corporal punishment go unreported. Lack of reporting is compounded by a phenomenon known as ‘official ambivalence’, a lack of support for the prohibition amongst parents and educators that results in ineffective legal mechanisms for enforcing the ban.

This report concludes with two hefty recommendations for the South African Human Rights Commission: to convene an inclusive dialogue on shifting attitudes to corporal punishment with various governmental and academic bodies; to advocate for the establishment of a national protocol for the effective enforcement of the corporal punishment ban. 

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