Educator accountability in South Africa: rethink section 10 of the South African Schools Act
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Twenty years after the abolition of corporal punishment in South Africa, shocking videos of educators administering corporal punishment surfaced during 2017. A much harsher approach to prosecuting offending educators as well as those who do not report corporal punishment is, therefore, justified. Although this is a feasible solution to the issue, it immediately poses a problem, because the South African Schools Act, the Employment of Educators Act and the Code of Conduct for educators do not include a clear definition of what constitutes corporal punishment. Without a clear definition, neither the criminal courts nor the South African Council for Educators can effectively prosecute educators. To strengthen the role of the law in eradicating corporal punishment, several legal sources are investigated in order to guide the debate as to what should be included in a definition of corporal punishment. Furthermore, the need to explicitly abolish other harmful forms of punishment, which cannot be classified as corporal punishment, is investigated. It is concluded that sec. 10 of the South African Schools Act should be amended to define the broad ambit of corporal punishment properly and to prohibit other forms of non-physical punishment that cause psychological and emotional harm to learners.