SAHRC hears about abuse in Limpopo schools

19 May 2021 - 13:05
By yoliswa sobuwa AND Yoliswa Sobuwa
Schools in Limpopo are rife with abuse.
Image: Schools in Limpopo are rife with abuse.

A civil society group told the SA human Rights Commission  (SAHRC) in Limpopo that some teachers employed prior to 1994 were the ones still administering corporal punishment.

On Tuesday, Save the Children South Africa was presenting to the commission on the  second day of the hearing into bullying, corporal punishment and sexual relationships between educators and learners in  Limpopo.

The three-day hearing is taking place at Bolivia Lodge in Polokwane, where the commission has called parents, teacher unions, the SA Police Service (SAPS), the department of social development (DSD) and civil society groups to relate their experiences.

The hearings come a month after the death of Lufuno Mavhunga, a 15-year-old learner at Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo, who was assaulted by another learner at the school. A video showing the humiliating violent attack was circulated on various social media platforms. Lufuno later committed suicide.

During her presentation, Mamahloli Masipa, the child protection manager at Save the Children SA,  said corporal punishment tends to be a quick-fix for teachers.

“We work with a number of schools around Limpopo and we discovered that principals are hiding incidents of violence at their schools. During our teacher training we have asked the educators as to why were they still practicing corporal punishment at schools, and we discovered that educators who started prior 1994 are the ones who are administering corporal punishment as that is what they had known all along.

"Educators also shared that they find themselves frustrated as they don’t know how to discipline the learners and they resort to corporal punishment. However, we have encouraged educators to have understanding of their learners and of their own stresses,” she said.

Masipa said they had also learned that principals were hiding incidents of violence at their schools, which was a contributing factor to increased reports of bullying, corporal punishment and sexual harassment at Limpopo schools.

Magnus Steyn, chairperson of South African Teachers Union, said there was a need to equip educators so that they could be able to deal with bullying at their schools.

“There is not enough training for educators and these days they are bombarded with a lot of training. There is a need for the department to focus on issues of bullying, sexual harassment and corporal punishment at schools. There should be training on bullying policies. We also have a problem of parents covering bullying of their own children,” he said.

SAHRC Limpopo provincial office manager Victor Mavhidula said the aim of the hearings is to make findings into whether the Limpopo department of education and other role players are adequately preventing, addressing and discouraging bullying between learners in schools within the province.

“We have to know what the challenges are in respect of identifying and addressing patterns of bullying, as well as the interventions required. The outcome of the hearing is also to identify the prevalence of corporal punishment within schools within the province, as well as trends of sexual relationships between educators and learners,” he said.