It has been the accepted norm that teachers have to beat pupils as punishment for wrongdoing. In years gone girls who fell pregnant at school were expelled as a deterring example to others.
This is no longer the case after Government gazetted the amendments to the Education Act.
The provisions of the amended Education Act have divided opinion among educationists in the country.
In terms of expelling pregnant pupils part of the act reads:
No pupil shall be excluded from school for non-payment of school fees or on the basis of pregnancy.
The amended Education Act also states that no pupil can be suspended without a hearing. The act reads:
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.
The act outlaws the beating of pupils and sets standards on disciplinary measures. The act reads:
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. Under no circumstance is a teacher allowed to beat a child.
However, the amendments to the Education Act have divided opinion between Zimbabwe’s two largest teachers’ bodies with the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) supporting the outlawing of corporal punishment whilst the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe argures that more consultations should have been done.
Zimta chief executive officer, Dr Sifiso Ndlovu, said:
As zimta, we fully participated in the crafting of that law. Most of what we raised has been included. We abhor the use of corporal punishment because it is an old-fashioned tool of instilling discipline. It has the effect of engendering a violent society. We also support any measure meant to safeguard the interests and rights of the girl child. One such provision is outlawing the exclusion of those that fall pregnant.
PTUZsecretary-general, Raymond Majongwe, said:
There should have been more consultation on these measures, especially on corporal punishment. Pupils and students may end up abusing drugs knowing they will not be punished.