By NQOBANI NDLOVU
THE Education Amendment Bill mandates school heads to craft a disciplinary policy for learners at their respective institutions, but corporal punishment remains outlawed, government has said.
In a Bill published in the Government Gazette of February 15, 2019, government seeks to amend the Education Act [Chapter 25:04].
Corporal punishment was ruled unconstitutional in 2015 after High Court judge Justice Esther Muremba said the practice was in contravention of some sections of the country’s laws.
Justice David Mangota also outlawed corporal punishment on children by teachers, parents and guardians.
The ban on corporal punishment at home or school divides public opinion for and against the practice, and draws emotive responses from either divide.
The Education Amendment Bill upholds the ban on corporal punishment and mandates school heads to come up with disciplinary measures at their respective institutions for approval by the ministry.
The Bill partly reads: “The Principal Act is amended by the insertion of the following sections after section 68 — 68A Pupil discipline; (1) 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.
“2) The regulations and any disciplinary policy shall — (a) not permit any treatment which (i) does not respect the human dignity of a pupil; or (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.
“(3) 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.
“(5) Under no circumstance is a teacher allowed to beat a child.”
Cabinet approved the Bill in November last year to promote equitable development of schools across all regions, the learning of local languages, and guarantee rights of learners.