Spanking ban: Where to now?

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Government has gazetted the Education Amendment Bill which effectively seeks to outlaw corporal punishment on pupils and encourages teachers to pursue alternative disciplinary methods, a Cabinet minister has said.

The Bill also bans exclusion of a pupil from school on the basis of pregnancy.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima  told the National Assembly this week that they had come up with a legal provision that bans the use of corporal punishment.

Muzarabani South Member of the National Assembly Cde Tapera Saizi (Zanu-PF) had asked the minister to clarify Government policy on corporate punishment.

“There is an Education Amendment Bill which is already before Parliament. Within that Bill, Government is moving to remove corporal punishment in our schools and that Bill is already before Parliament,” said Prof Mavima.

Nkulumane legislator Mr Kucaca Phulu (MDC Alliance) asked if it was Government policy to put in place a programme to educate or re-orient teachers and parents on disciplinary issues.

He said it was important because teachers might have problems in operating in an environment where corporal punishment was no longer applicable.

“Yes, the ministry is currently seized with coming up with alternative ways in which we can maintain discipline within our schools without necessarily resorting to corporal punishment. So, indeed we are working on alternatives,” said Prof Mavima.

According to the preamble of the Bill, one of the purposes of the Bill was to achieve the right to human dignity as envisaged by Section 51 of the Constitution including the right to freedom from physical or psychological torture or cruel or inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment as contained in Section 53 of the Constitution.

Section 15 of the Bill sets out new sections to be inserted in the principal Act to deal with discipline at school.

“This will obligate every responsible authority to draw up a disciplinary policy for the school in accordance with the standard set out by the minister,” read the clause in the summary of the Bill.

“Non-exclusion of pupils from school, this section provides that no pupil shall be excluded from school for non-payment  of school fees or on the basis of pregnancy.”

On corporal punishment Clause 15 (5) of the Bill provides as follows: “Under no circumstance is a teacher allowed to beat a child.”

As part of pupil discipline, the Bill says the responsible authority of every school shall draw up a disciplinary policy for the school in accordance with standards set out in regulations prescribed by the minister for the purpose.

“The regulations and any disciplinary policy shall—(a) not permit any treatment which—(i) does not respect the human dignity of a pupil; or 5(ii) amounts to physical or psychological torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

(b) prescribe the manner in which any punishment may be administered,” read the clause. “Disciplinary measures must be moderate, reasonable and proportionate in the light of the conduct, age, sex, health and circumstances of the pupil concerned and the best interests of the child shall be paramount. (4) No pupil may be suspended from school without first being  granted a reasonable opportunity, with the support of his or her parents, to make representations with respect to the proposed suspension.”

Source : The Herald

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