Parents need to find alternative ways to discipline their children in an acceptable way; this is according to FAMSA Bloemfontein Director, Karn Botha. The recent death of Sizwe Kubheka, who was a learner at Thabarabollo Secondary School in Palm Springs, Vereeniging, allegedly as a result of corporal punishment, has highlighted the issue of corporal punishment in schools and at home.
“Society needs to be aware of the effects of corporal punishment on children,” said Social Work Manager at Child Welfare Bloemfontein, Cynthia du Toit. Du Toit explained that psychological reactions to corporal punishment may differ from child to child. Children may become withdrawn and anti-social or may act out aggressively by hitting other people or violently retaliate against the person who hits them. Depending on a child’s personality, severe corporal punishment might lead to poor self esteem and self worth or a child might feel that they are getting power by hitting someone else.
Child Welfare Bloemfontein deals with approximately two severe cases per month where parents have gone a bit out of hand (with punishment) and then physically hit their children.
According to Education Rights Project some educators and parents have substituted physical punishment with emotional humiliation that can cause damage to the child and influences their self-esteem or school performance.
“Specifically in school situations I think teachers see corporal punishment as an easy way out. You can handle and control the situation immediately whereas the alternatives require time and effort. However it usually doesn’t solve anything,” said Mookho Ntsane who has been teaching for 27 years.
The effects of corporal punishment do not just end with childhood; children might also mimic their parents’ behavior in adulthood when dealing with conflict. “There is not enough research data on the subject to prove that corporal punishment in childhood can lead to aggressive behavior in adulthood but according to our experience we find that parents’ behavior and actions get transferred to their children and it becomes a culture. This means that in adulthood children will react to conflict the same way that their parents did, this may lead to criminal activities such as assault,” explained Du Toit.
Statistics on corporal punishment are not readily available in South Africa. Child Welfare in Bloemfontein is trying to remedy this by working with social work university students at the University of the Free State to help them conduct research on such topics so that more work can be done to avoid tragic incidents such as Sizwe’s.