Increase in cases of corporal punishment, sexual misconduct: SACE

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UPDATED with more information:

The South African Council for Educators (SACE) says there has been an increase in reported cases of corporal punishment and sexual misconduct in schools.

SACE is hosting roundtable discussions on the regulation of teacher behaviour in the education sector in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni.

The discussions are aimed at addressing challenges relating to the regulation of educator behaviour and exploring strategies for promoting coordinated regulation and accountability within the teaching profession.

SACE CEO Ella Mokgalane says, “One of the things we have noticed in terms of our statistics is that the cases are increasing. On top of our list is your corporal punishment and also sexual misconduct cases and human relations among teachers themselves within the school. We have the regulation of teachers across various sectors. We need to develop a code of ethics that will be able to deal with the education misconduct cases that are reported to us.”

Regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against learners, the appropriate law enforcement procedures should be followed, and teachers found guilty of such offences will be listed in the national register for sexual offenders and removed from the teacher’s roster.

About a million children still experience corporal punishment in schools:

Additionally, incidents of learners assaulting teachers, including stabbing and shootings, have been ongoing.

Mokgalane emphasised the importance of empowering educators to address unprecedented violence, stating, “We should not harm the children, we must protect, ensure rights are protected. We capacitate our educators in order to understand the implications of harming children through corporal punishment or sexual misconduct cases…”

“However, the violence against the teachers is something else. If a child kicks you, as a teacher you can’t kick them back. At the end of the day, power relations. You are standing in the place of a parent. Rather just go out,” Mokgalane added.

Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga expressed concern over the trend of sexual misconduct cases involving teachers, stressing the need for teachers to fulfil their social responsibilities and adhere to the code of conduct they signed.

He says, “There is a worrying trend of sexual misconduct cases involving our teachers. It’s not just sexual misconduct, it’s also corporal punishment. We need to remind our teachers of their social responsibilities and the code of conduct which they signed and say they would adhere to. We are all here to focus on the interest of the child. The issue of learner discipline is a huge one but also teachers need to have good control of the classroom because if they don’t the rest of the children start disrespecting.”

SACE highlighted that through misconduct and abuse, it is the child who ultimately suffers, calling for collaboration among parents, schools, and communities to ensure the ongoing safety of learners.