Durban – Shocking video footage has emerged which appears to show a female teacher pulling teenage schoolgirls up to the front of a classroom, positioning them over a chair and beating them.
The school from where the footage emanated had not yet been identified on Thursday, but the language used suggested it was taken somewhere in KwaZulu Natal.
When the video was shot was also unknown, but it was posted to Facebook by Makhi Zihlangu – who identifies himself as a teacher – on Tuesday and has since been shared more than 7 000 times and viewed more than 200 000 times.
The Department of Education in KZN, when alerted to the video, responded furiously and said the teacher concerned, if indeed from KZN, would soon be “history”.
Towards the beginning of the footage, the teacher walks towards the person taking the film, whose hand falls into the frame, as if he is trying to hide the camera. It looks as if it was filmed by one of the girls’ classmates, on a cellphone camera, and starts as one girl’s punishment ends, with her folding over in two while she stumbles away. Another girl gingerly approaches the chair. She shuts her eyes and tenses as the teacher, armed with what appears to be a stick or piece of plastic, strikes her. The girl winces as the blow connects with the back of her legs the first time. The second time, her spine arches and she walks away, but the teacher hauls her back to the chair, repositions her and strikes her again.
The girl is then made to stand with her hands out and flinches as the teacher whips at her open palms several times.
Four more girls are summoned to the chair, but they take their beatings in their stride and stand stoically as they are hit repeatedly.
The province’s Department of Education is on the warpath.
“She is history,” spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said of the teacher involved, after viewing the video for himself yesterday. He called the footage “brutal” and did not know how the woman had managed to “creep into the system”.
“But she must start packing her bags,” he said. “Corporal punishment is a crime. There’s no two ways about it.”
Mahlambi said the MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwane, wanted to visit the school as soon as possible.
“If we knew which school it was, we would be on our way there now,” he said.
Investigations were under way yesterday and the video was being distributed locally and nationally. The SAPS was also investigating, Mahlambi said. He was confident the teacher, whose face is clearly visible in the video, would be brought to book.
Corporal punishment was banned in South African schools in the mid-1990s and research published in the Perspectives in Education Journal last year showed that punishing pupils for bad behaviour with humiliation, or by administering corporal punishment, only aggravated disciplinary problems at schools. The research also indicated that harsh punishment was “toxic” to children who had experienced rejection and abuse – leading to more disciplinary problems.
But Equal Education deputy general secretary Ntuthuzo Ndzomo – who was “highly concerned” about the video – also said the administering of corporal punishment was still prevalent at South African schools. Equal Education recently conducted a social audit at Isilimela Secondary School, in the Western Cape, and found “learners experienced various threats to their safety on the way to and at school”.
Corporal punishment was one of the most prominent threats recorded and 93% of the pupils reported experiencing and/or witnessing corporal punishment at school, the rights organisation said.
“Many of these punishments were carried out using pipes and other materials.
“We call on learners and parents to expose incidents like this to us or the department,” Ndzomo said.
Attempts to reach Zihlangu on Thursday were unsuccessful, but the text accompanying his video on Tuesday, read: “At this age and error (sic), I never thought I would see such brutal punishment of kids, especially girls. #coporalpunishmentmustfall”. Then on Wednesday, he penned a lengthy post and said, among other things, that he had been threatened after sharing the footage.