Educator, learner and the abolition of corporal punishment in a rural isiZulu-medium school in Harding, KwaZulu-Natal.
This thesis examines the impact of the abolition of corporal punishment on boy behaviour in a rural IsiZulu-medium school in Harding, Kwazulu-Natal. The school is made up of black learners and educators. As far back as we can remember, corporal punishment has been part of a teacher's function. When corporal punishment was abolished by the South African Act of l996, many teachers were aggrieved, as they believed that corporal punishment was the only answer to disciplinary problems. Many educators still believe that corporal punishment should be used to make learners respect them and curb deviant behaviour. Altematives to corporal punishment have been provided as a way of bringing change to schools' disciplinary practices. These alternatives to corporal punishment haven't been popular with parents, educators and learners. There is a call for the restoration of corporal punishment in spite of the negative impact such punishment has on a learner. The South African Government has made it illegal to use corporal punishment as a way of addressing or instilling change. This study examines the effects of the abolition of corporal punishment, and more specifically, looks at whether the abolition has had a positive effect on school discipline, boys' behaviour and, more broadly, on gender relations. Using questionnaires and interviews posed to both educators and learners, the research suggests that boy's behaviour is shaped and influenced to a large extent by the following factors: (a) Home back ground, (b) The society/environment, (c) The history of the education system, (d) School practices and discipline policies and (e) Hegemonic masculinities. The type of punishment that is used also contributes towards shaping boys behaviour. The study finds that the abolition of corporal punishment has had both a positive and a negative impacts on schools' discipline and boy behaviour. The study shows that one of the intended consequences of the abolition of corporal punishment (the improvement of the teacher learner environment) has not been achieved and in fact, may have become worse as a result of the abolition of corporal punishment. Leamers are more undisciplined now than before. Educators fail to exert authority over learners as boys have as increased disregard for the rights of others. There is a high frequency of late comers and the school is functioning poorly. Educators feel that they lack the authority to discipline leamers as they are not allowed to use corporal punishment. Academic performance is low in both internal (grade 8-11) and external (grade 12) classes. There is increased graffiti and vandalism. Learners fail to attend studies and extra lessons and during breaks they are very noisy. Most learners experience difficulty using English as the medium of learning and teaching. Learners seem to have no interest in academic work although the majority of learners participate in extra mural activities. A few of the learners and educators have responded positively to the abolition of corporal punishment. Some of the educators have changed their disciplinary methods and practices. They have resorted to alternative methods of punishment like detention, discussions and getting leamers to perform menial tasks. The use of non violent methods of punishment have yielded a slight change in boy learners. Some of the boys seem to be obedient, they conform to school rules and are responsible and committed to their work. Some learners, who displayed violent behaviour before, have become passive and display acceptable behaviour. This study finds a thin but steady line of change in boys' behaviour and in gender relations in the school. The abolition of corporal punishment appears to create democratic spaces which allow new perceptions and practices of discipline to emerge and these assist in the emergence of new masculinities.