The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said on Wednesday that ill discipline by learners will not be tolerated, but said corporal punishment is unacceptable.
This follows a viral video showing a teacher and learner at Sans Souci Girls High School in Cape Town in a physical altercation.
“I am aware of a video that is circulating on social media of an incident between a learner and an educator at Sans Souci Girls High School during class time,” Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said in a statement.
“I want to state categorically that the actions of the educator are unacceptable. Any form of corporal punishment in our schools will not be tolerated.”
The department said officials had visited the school on Wednesday morning.
“As the teacher in the video is an SGB (school governing body) appointee, the SGB is meeting today to discuss the disciplinary steps going forward,” the department said.
“An investigation into the incident is also underway. The investigation will determine whether the learner will also face disciplinary action. Learners in the class have been asked to make a statement regarding the events that led up to the incident. There is further video evidence that has been edited out of the version being circulated.”
Schäfer said she was aware that some commentators on social media platforms were immediately assuming that the incident was race related.
“While I understand their anger at the images displayed on the edited version of the video, we cannot assume that this was racially motivated. We ask that the public allow the SGB to investigate the incident before such conclusions are made.”
The WCED said learners at the school held a peaceful protest Wednesday morning during assembly in support of the educator, stating that the incident was not race related.
“It is this important that we establish all the facts. We are very aware of the many disciplinary challenges our educators face daily in our schools, however, the use of violence to deal with learners that show signs of behavioural issues or are ill-disciplined cannot be tolerated,” the WCED said.
“The South African Schools Act (SASA), 1996 (Act 84 of 1996) and the National Education Policy Act (NEPA), 1996 (Act 27 of 1996) clearly bans corporal punishment in our schools.”
The department said through the school’s code of conduct, schools should state clearly what kinds of behaviour were unacceptable, and should a learner transgress, then the school had the right to discipline the learner.
“The WCED will support schools that ensure that the relevant disciplinary procedures are followed when it comes to any form of violence or antisocial behaviour in our schools. This is because we take a zero tolerance stance on learners that transgress various disciplinary codes by attacking or assaulting their fellow learners or educators.”
The department urged educators to exercise control when confronted with issues of ill-discipline.
“It has been mentioned on many an occasion that educators feel unsure how to deal with discipline in their classroom. While there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to unruly behaviour in our schools, there are certain methods that can be adopted to deal with different circumstances.”
Schäfer said there were a number of programmes in place for district-specific behaviour interventions.
“Districts are providing an array of skills training in alternative and restorative strategies to deal with learner discipline. Schools are encouraged to inform the district should they have training needs.”
“Schools are to ensure that they are informed of the relevant guidelines to assist them in this regard. This includes, the WCED’s policy on Learner Discipline and School Management, as well as, the WCED Abuse no more protocol document.”
-ANA, editing by Lindiz van Zilla