PROGRESSIVE Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe has petitioned President Robert Mugabe to rescind the new constitutional provisions that outlawed corporal punishment, arguing that this would lead to a spike in cases of indiscipline among pupils.
In the letter, which was also copied to Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora and the ministry’s secretary Sylvia Utete-Masango, Majongwe said teachers felt there was need for extensive consultations with all stakeholders before the decision to spare the rod on pupils was made.
“As a union, we are receiving reports from our members in schools that cases of indiscipline are on the rise,” Majongwe said. “Outright removal of corporal punishment could easily worsen the situation.”
Zimbabwe’s new Constitution, which was adopted in 2013, bars education officers and teaching staff from administering corporal punishment on pupils. Early this month, High Court judge Justice Ester Muremba ruled as unconstitutional the caning of a student who had been convicted of rape.
Justice Muremba ruled that Section 353 (1) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act Chapter 907 was invalid in terms of Section 167 (3) and Section 175 (1) of the new Constitution.
But Majongwe said PTUZ had received reports of widespread cases of bullying, rape, sexual escapades, alcohol and drug abuse, truancy, fights, late coming for school, bunking of lessons and lack of respect for teachers as a result of the scrapping of corporal punishment. He said such conduct militated against efforts to mould good citizens and attain higher pass rates in schools.
“We are convinced the outright removal of corporal punishment from our schools will definitely turn our schools into jungles with no master or authority,” Majongwe said.
He said corporal punishment helped to keep students on the straight and narrow.
“In light of the above, we kindly request your good office to urgently instruct the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to engage all key stakeholders on this matter and get their views to save our education.”
Under the old Constitution, teachers and parents were allowed to impose moderate corporal punishment while the court was allowed to do the same on convicted juveniles when necessary.
Sometime in 2009, Mugabe told family members during the burial of his brother Donato that occasional corporal punishment was in line with Zimbabwe’s culture. “We strongly support the use of corporal punishment in disciplining errant children,” Mugabe said then.