Section27 headed to Supreme Court of Appeal in corporal punishment case



Published Dec 6, 2022


Lobby group Section27, which is representing the parents of two children who were severely injured by teachers guilty of administering corporal punishment, has been granted leave to appeal in the South African Council of Educators’ (Sace) case.

Section27, also representing the Centre for Child Law in the matter, is expected to file papers at the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Judge Dawie Fourie, of the High Court of South Africa in Pretoria, granted Section27’s application for leave to appeal in the Sace case on Tuesday.

The two teachers pleaded guilty to corporal punishment and severely injuring the two children, when the case was brought before the council of educators. However, the teachers received very lenient sentences from the council, said Section27.

“Both teachers were fined R15 000 but only paid R5 000 each because R10 000 of the fines were suspended. They also received another suspended sentence of having their names struck off the roll of educators for 10 years, which means that the teachers are still in classrooms unless they are found guilty of another offence.

“We would like the SCA to order Sace to review these sentences so that these violent teachers are no longer allowed to teach after being found guilty of corporal punishment,” said Section27 after its appeal was granted.

Judge Fourie initially ruled that the applicants had not instituted review proceedings of these sentences without “unreasonable delay”, as stated in section 7(1) of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act of 2000 (Paja).

In heads of argument for leave to appeal by Section27, it noted that Paja allowed parties to launch review proceedings later than 180 days where the “interests of justice” require it.

Accordingly, Judge Fourie granted Section27 leave to appeal, as well as Sace’s cross-appeal application.

Section27’s Faranaaz Veriava said that advancing to the Supreme Court of Appeal was an important step towards better accountability for teachers who used corporal punishment in classrooms.

“Despite corporal punishment being illegal since 1996, Sace continues to allow teachers off the hook when they are found guilty of corporal punishment. We need a stronger institutional response to enforce the corporal punishment ban so that classrooms are safe from violence,” Veriava said.

She added that Sace had in the past “sentenced very leniently and ineffectively” when teachers were found guilty of corporal punishment, without addressing teachers’ violent behaviour or equipping them with the strategies to implement non-violent discipline in classrooms.

Section27 and the Centre for Child Law said they believed that stronger sanctions for corporal punishment would contribute to breaking the cycle of violence which characterised many South African communities.