The abolition of corporal punishment in schools. Progress towards teacher authority and social Justice in selected rural schools

Title: The abolition of corporal punishment in schools. Progress towards teacher authority and social Justice in selected rural schools
First author: Dr Noorullah Shaikhnag
Id 0000-0002 1423 7696
Senior lecturer –Deputy Director, North-West University, Faculty of Education- Mafi keng campus
B Com (UDW-UKZN), BEd, MED, PhD (Educational Psychology, NWU).
Co-author: Prof Anna-Marie Pelser
Co-author: Professor Anna-Marie (AMF) Pelser –
Research Professor, North-West University, Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences- Entity Director –GIFT, Mafi keng Campus.
HED (Home Economics, PU for CHE), B Com (UNISA), B Com Hons (PU for CHE), M Com (Industrial Psychol-ogy, NWU), PhD (Education Management, NWU)
Corresponding author: Prof A.M.F. Pelser –
Co-author: Dr Shanae Naidoo
North-West University, South Africa: Potchefstroom, North West, ZA
Lecturer: Life Orientation, Sub Area Leader: Edu-HRight (Bio-Psychosocial Perspectives)
MED (Learner Support), PhD (Educational Leadership and Management, UJ).

Ensovoort, volume 42 (2021), number 8: 1


School officials and policymakers usually rely on personal anecdotes to argue that corporal punishment in schools improves student behaviour, achievement and teacher authority. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence showing that physical punishment leads to better control in the classroom. In view of this and with the implementation of the Schools Act 1996, which abolished corporal punishment in South African schools, a sample was drawn of 400 learners and 100 teachers using 20 rural high schools in an educational region of the North West Province of South Africa to investigate the undermining of teacher authority due to the outlawing of corporal punishment. The population was made up of 40 schools, 1200 learners and 300 educators. In contrast with the theoretical investigation which revealed that the abolition of corporal punishment would probably lead to a de-crease in teacher authority, the empirical investigation, particularly the application of the chi-squared test, indicated no positive relationship between the abolition of corporal punishment, teacher authority and social justice. The recommendation, therefore, is that alternative forms of disciplinary measures are necessary to replace corporal punishment, but not to totally get rid of the latter, as its use can at times be valuable in order to minimise misconduct among learners and possibly strengthen social justice and teacher assertiveness.

Keywords: Discipline, Misconduct, Physical punishment, Social justice, Teacher authority.

1. Introduction and background

A ban on corporal punishment in schools has made it virtually impossible to maintain discipline in the class-room and teachers complain that since beating learners with canes has been outlawed, educators have little or no authority in classrooms as they have no other way of enforcing discipline in the classroom (Salem,2013). Although banned, corporal punishment remains a highly controversial issue in some communities,but research conducted by Makhasane and Chikoko (2016) indicate that corporal punishment is not held in good stead amongst learners. However, there are a few other techniques that can be used to stamp your authority in the classroom namely, establish rules fi rmly, watching your body language, being consistent, be firm, but fair, moving around the class and having a give and take relationship (Rosati, 2017). Discipline in a positive sense refers to learning, regulated scholarship, guidance and orderliness, and may therefore qual-ify as an integral part of an effective educational endeavour in which parents and teachers give assistance to a learner seeking help (Stenhouse, 2015). On the other hand, trying to maintain good conduct, violence must be avoided.

Authority should be established by teachers showing a learner-centred approach which can be achieved by permitting the learners to voice their opinions without actually placing themselves in a compromising situation with learners, thus making progress towards social justice, believes Meador (2019). Creating social cohesion is everyone’s responsibility, requiring political will, shared consensus and participating in processes though it may not be acceptable to all suggest Sayed, Badroodien, Salmon & McDonald (2016). In order to achieve this, a five-point paradigm indicating sources of power or authority can be used namely, a reward which is the ability to give positive feedback in the form of points or comments; coercive authority, where learners are penalised for poor conduct; legitimate power which is associated with authority to set up laws;referent power which stems from learners’ respect for the educator and finally expert authority which is derived from the ability of the educator to show skills in the subject he/she teaches (Brame, 2016).

The situation in South African schools currently seems to suggest that a lack of discipline and increase in violence among high school students has led to teacher authority being undermined, hence poor learning and teaching takes place in schools. This affects the lives of both teachers and learners (Makhasane &Chikoko, 2016; Mthanti & Mncube, 2014). Principals in the North West Province of South Africa also point out that bullying, assault and fighting among learners are the most common types of misconduct in schools. Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reveals that corporal punishment is less effective than other methods of behaviour management in schools, while praise, discussions about value systems and positive role models play a more important part in developing character, respect for educators and values than corporal punishment. This also helps to maintain social justice (Veriava &Power, 2017, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2020). Therefore in schools where social justice is to be maintained, teachers should place learners at the centre and make every effort to help learners irrespective of social backgrounds (Sayed et al., 2016).

2. Problem statement

Educators need to create legitimate authority in order to display control in the classroom, hence it is essential for them to exercise authority because people in responsible positions should have authority to under-take their tasks. Thus for teachers to maintain peace and order in classrooms, they need to have authority(Esmaeili, Mohamedrezai &Mohamedrezai, 2015). Although in today’s age and time, discipline does not include corporal punishment, research by Govender and Sookrah (2014) indicates that it is still widely implemented in authoritarian classrooms. In schools discipline is regarded as policies and procedures learners have to follow so that order can be established in schools, hence it is an essential part of teaching and learning (Lukman & Ali, 2016). These authors further emphasise that discipline in schools is meant to bringabout a healthy learning environment which will lead to learner self-control and ultimately social cohesion.Thus, teachers should have the authority to correct misconduct in schools and punish learners who break or breach the school rules (Kambuga, Manyengo & Mbalamula, 2018).

The inference here is that, if used correctly, this type of punishment brings about an immediate decrease in bad behaviour, produces respect for authority, obedience and self-discipline (Grayson 2008; Masitsa, 2008).However, in some instances, teachers react rather emotionally to learners misbehaving and end up harm-ing them with the irrational punishment which they mete out to the learners (Nakpodia, 2012). On the otherhand, Russo (2015) contends that no absolute certainty exists in respect of the claim that corporal punishment will improve learner behaviour, mental soundness and social justice. As education involves the trans-fer of knowledge, values and ideals from one generation to another through the guidance of authoritativeteachers, it is important that they be recognised as authority figures for the information they impart(Kitchen & McCloed, 2014). A study conducted by Chafi , Elkhouzi and Ouchouid (2016) emphasise the importance of exercising authority which is a routine feature of most teacher-learner interactions, hence class-room discipline is the core of educational authority as it guarantees obedience and acceptance from learn-ers as well as promote social justice.

With this in mind, this article intends to shed light on and provide insight into the experiences encountered by teachers and learners due to the abolition of corporal punishment. The study, the findings on which this article reports, concentrated on discovering evidence concerning the effects of abolishing corporal punishment on teacher authority and social justice.

3. Aims of the study

The main aim of the study was therefore to investigate the effects of the abolition of corporal punishment on teacher authority and to establish the relationship if any between corporal punishment, teacher authority and social cohesion.

4. Hypothesis

In this study, the null hypothesis tested was: There is no significant relationship between corporal punishment, teacher authority and social justice.

5. Literature Review

The abolition of corporal punishment is and will always remain a controversial issue within South Africanschools as well as schools worldwide (Naong, 2007). Thus maintaining learner discipline today is one of the most difficult tasks facing a teacher mainly due to globalisation and social media indicates Kambuga (2017).For education to take place unhindered, the educator must assume the position of authority which must be accepted by the learner and this authority is important for eff ective teaching. However, this is often a con-tentious issue as teachers have to deal with it when teaching in diverse conditions. It is therefore importantfor educators to develop a sound environment for learners to thrive in the classroom by using the available authority resources (Esmaeli et al., 2015; Lai, Mingyue & Jingjing, 2015).

Educators, however, have to cope with the fact that the traditional authority they enjoyed, where learners accepted instructions and adhered to teacher requests without being challenged, has diminished some-what in the modern era (Roberson, 2014). Thus it will be advisable for teachers to employ a five-point social justice strategy which will create a more friendly and intellectual caring environment namely acknowledging who is in a classroom; starting with the skills the learners have; creating unit plans and curricular maps; being honest about who you are and your biases and finally to inspire learners to question everything (Belle,2019). Thus in terms of classroom and teaching methods, it is important to note that teacher success will depend on the time allotted to learner activities of a practical nature as well as maintaining a social justice pedagogy (Nazari, 2014; Weiss, 2014).

Research in South Africa shows that schools continue to administer corporal punishment to curtail misconduct among learners even for minor offences, and more than half (55.6%) of those learners interviewed had been subject to physical punishment for bad behaviour (Rohrs, 2016). This means that the societal practice of corporal punishment has not diminished (Harber & Mncube, 2011; Shologu, 2012). This is corroborated by Odhiambo (2017) when he mentions that corporal punishment is routine to many learners as they are beaten for minor offences which do not require corporal punishment. Hence, Makhubele (2014) believes that such practices negatively affects relationships and often creates resentment and hostility, which have been associated with learners dropping out of school and leading to social misconduct. It must thus be borne in mind that the only way to change the world is to adopt a more just education system by implementing teaching and learning practices that are fair and of benefit to society as a whole (Belle, 2019).

Corporal punishment in South Africa has been used as a quick-fix solution that raises fear and pain and should therefore be replaced by instilling self-discipline. Through its constitution, South Africa is among several countries committed to abolishing corporal punishment of learners, thus being beaten is not a normal practice any longer (Govender & Sookrajh, 2015). In view of this, Frechette and Romano (2015) believe that, though corporal punishment may be highly prevalent, legal reforms and public education efforts to limit it will result in a decrease in its use. Despite this, it should be remembered that teacher authority and class discipline are imperative to the student-teacher relationship and to overall teaching effectiveness, and extremely important to maintaining effective classroom management (Lopes & Oliveira, 2017; Molina & Mar-tin, 2016). Authority thus is the establishment of a two-way relationship between the givers and receivers of orders, hence teacher authority is a key element in maintaining a functional class that strengthens student results (Mclaren, 2018; Roberson, 2014).

Those who advocate corporal punishment argue that the ever-growing disregard for authority among the youth stems from the abolition of physical punishment both at home and at school, hence the belief that teachers no longer have authority since it denotes abuse and repression (Kimani, Kara & Ogetange, 2012).Teacher authority is thus consequential in the teaching-learning situation and the teacher must always be above the level of the learner (Shirgley, 2008; Cemane, 2008). As education is central to a civilised society and a key element of social justice, many educators believe that the use of corporal punishment will help tocontrol learners, asserting that, this type of punishment will rectify student behaviour which ultimately will bring about respect for the teacher and uphold his/her dignity (Ntuli & Machaisa, 2014).

The present situation in South African schools demonstrates that a lack of discipline and self-discipline among high school learners has led to a continuation of unsuccessful learning and teaching affecting teacher authority (Mtsweni, 2009). Educators, therefore, feel helpless, have to cope with challenging behaviour and poor overall discipline which has led to total disrespect for teachers (Matoti, 2012). As it is unethical to physically punish learners according to the Schools Act, no 10, the then Minister of Education, designed a comprehensive document entitled ‘Alternatives to Corporal Punishment’. Disciplinary measures to  be taken in South African schools are clearly outlined on different levels, and with the dawning of democracy in South Africa, emphasis is placed on protecting and respecting learners’ rights, posit Maphosa andShumba (2010).

A study conducted by Naong (2007), shows that many teachers are not adhering to the legislation on corporal punishment and that physical punishment is still very much prevalent in South Africa despite being outlawed. Approximately 12.4% of learners experienced physical punishment by teachers to curb misconduct, suggesting that, to be effective, educators need to develop legitimate authority which should help in diminishing ill-discipline, failure rate and impulsivity (Chetty, Friedman & Rockoff , 2013). However, in recent times,schools have shown a tendency to use alternative measures of punishment such as in-school suspension and after-school detention. As the purpose of discipline is constructive rather than destructive, teachers should display both intellectual authority as well as societal authority (McClure & May 2008; Usiautti &Maatta, 2012). Thus positive management of discipline will promote equality and social justice which will enable learners to learn effectively, feel safe and supported which ultimately will bring about excellent educational opportunities, maintain Olley, Cohn & Cowan, 2011; Smith (2018).

An empirical investigation was conducted based on the theoretical insights that flowed from the conceptual-theoretical framework set out above. The study aimed at exploring the undermining of teacher authority and progress towards social justice in schools as a result of the abolition of corporal punishment in South African schools.

6. Research design and methodology

6.1. Introduction to research design and methodology

The post-positivist paradigm was used to contextualise the research and was based on the assumptions that all knowledge is conjectural; hence knowledge is subject to supposition since the absolute truth cannotbe established (Creswell, 2016). Also, research is a process of making claims, thereafter moderating them orexcluding them to accommodate other claims that are deserving of acknowledgement. Finally, post-positivism is not a form of relativism and can thus retain the idea of objective truth. This is important for competent enquiry suggests Creswell (2016). The framework is the product of the researchers’ constructive-hermeneutic comprehension of views expressed in the relevant literature. Conducting research in this way requires one to be mindful that knowledge is conjectural, hence absolute truth is not always established.The investigation was of a quantitative nature and, as a data-collecting technique, it was underpinned by a post-positivistic research theory where assumptions represent the traditional form of research as indicated by Creswell (2016).

6.2. Research design and methodology, continued

The study employed a quantitative approach using a descriptive survey design as it uses statistical data as a tool for saving time and resources as well as placing an emphasis on numbers in the collection and analysis of data. Thus, the quantitative method was suitable for this research since the use of statistical data reduces time and effort which the researcher could have used in explaining his result (Eyisi, 2016).

Using the survey approach tends to buy into a tradition of research that emphasises the quest for details of tangible things. It is a simple approach, used with more or less sophistication in many areas of human activity. In this research, the use of the survey approach enabled the researcher to obtain information on the respondents’ opinions and beliefs related to the null hypothesis tested (Maree, 2014; Bryman, 2015).

Empirical observation and measurement were utilised to determine the effects of the abolition of corporal punishment on teacher authority. Thus it became apparent that using the quantitative method in analysing data would be best suited for the study since this approach involves collecting numerical data which are ob-jective and not infl uenced in any way by the researchers’ prejudice as well as allowing the use of control and study groups (Denscombe, 2010; Johnson & Christensen, 2012).

6.3. Instrumentation

Information from respondents was gathered directly by means of a scheduled structured questionnaire.This method is based on a set of questions with fixed wording and indicators of how to answer each question, thus a structured (closed-ended) questionnaire using the four (4)-point Likert scale was used since it is characterised by choices between alternative responses that are given (Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree andStrongly disagree) and where questions flowed logically from one to the next. A self-constructed questionnaire with twelve items was used. The questionnaire had only one section and the wording was such that it could easily elicit appropriate reactions from the respondents. With this type of questionnaire, data can be enlarged and classified more easily and the response options should be exhaustive and mutually exclusive(Burns & Bush, 2012; Kumar, 2014)[i].

6.4. Population and Sampling

The target population was high schools in one educational region of the North West Province (n=40) and it was selected with the assistance of the Area Project Office regional managers. The findings of the study are therefore valid for schools in this region only.

The sample is a small portion of the entire population, viz a small group of individuals who participate in the study, but it must be of the required sample size and should be selected using an appropriate samplingtechnique (Omair, 2014). In this study, simple random sampling was used since the benefit of this method is that each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected, hence it guarantees that the sample is selected in an unbiased way which in turn means that statistical conclusions drawn from the analysis will be valid (2019). The sample size was twenty schools (n=20). In total, 400 questionnaires were distributed to 400 students and 100 were handed out to educators. The response rate was 90% for learners and 95% for educators.

Table 1: Population and Sample



Schools in one region of NWP

Number of schools



Number of schools selected









6.5. Ethical considerations and Trustworthiness issues

Ethical guidelines were followed, which included guaranteeing confidentiality and anonymity of the respondents. Permission to carry out this investigation was granted by the Provincial Department of Education and further consent was given by the principals, parents, respondents as well as their legally authorised guardians where applicable. This is necessary to prove that all respondents were taking part in the research voluntarily (Ragin & Amoroso 2013). To establish the reliability of the instrument, Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was calculated for the questionnaire dealing with teacher authority, social justice and the abolition of corporal punishment; the result of 0.801 suggests that it was more than satisfactory (refer to Table 2 below), hence reliability and content validity were maintained as the questionnaires were structured in such away that questions were clearly articulated and directed. To further ensure validity, the researcher explained the rationale for the study and the anonymity of the respondents was assured.

Table 2: Cronbach’s Alpha







School 20





Good & consistent

6.6. Data processing and administration

The researchers distributed the questionnaires personally. The advantage of doing this was that the purpose of the study could be clearly expounded before the respondents attempted to answer the questions.Most of the completed questionnaires were collected almost immediately, but some had to be collected a ta later stage due to students writing tests. The quantitative method was applied in analysing data. The raw data were organised and analysed, and the chi-squared test was applied to test the null hypothesis. Since the Chi-squared test can be used to attempt rejection of the null hypothesis that the data are independent,it was appropriate for this study. This was done with the aid of the statistics department at the North-West University who used computer-aided statistical analysis such as calculations of frequencies, percentages,means and chi-squares by means of meta-analysis. The usual procedure is that if the P-Value is less than the significant level, normally 0.05, then we reject the hypothesis (Prabakharan, 2016).

7. Findings

7.1. Abolition of corporal punishment and eff ect on teacher authority and social justice

Table 3 below presents the responses to the questionnaire relating to the abolition of corporal punishmentand teacher authority. The respondents were requested to respond to fi fteen statements with regard to theabove. They were asked to rate each item on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 =Strongly Agree, 2=Agree, 3=Disagree,4=Strongly Disagree).


Strongly agree



Strongly disagree


Since the abolition of corporal punishment (CP) teachers have no authority to deduct learners’ marks which may change their attitude towards them

43 (8.9%)

146 (30.1%)

166 (34.1%)

130 (26.8%)


Refusing to mark late submission of work does not improve their attitude towards teachers and could lead to social conflict.

115 (23.7%)

226 (36.6%)

89 (18.4%

55 (11.3%)


No serious discussions take place with learners who do not submit their work on time because they have no regard for teacher authority.

204 (42.0%)

184 (37.9%)

87 (17.9%)

11 (2.3%)


Teachers do not reprimand lazy learners because their authority is undermined which can cause poor social relations.

170 (35.1%)

185 (38.2%)

106 (21.7%)

23 (4.8%)


Teachers have authority to use sarcasm to ridicule the offending learner which could strain relations outside the school.

23 (4.8%)

113 (23.6%)

223 (46.6%)

120 (25.1%)


Teachers have power to insult learners who do not do their work, this could affect social justice.

33 (6.85%)

86 (17.7%)

121 (24.9%)

246 (50.6%)


Teachers have no right to exclude the lazy culprit from the group this helps to improve social cohesion.

91 (18.8%)

206 (42.5%)

115 (23.5%)

73 (15.1%)


Teachers cannot refuse privileges to the offending learner since they have little authority to do so and not doing so, could improve socialization.

49 (10.2%)

226 (47.8%)

163 (33.9%)

43 (8.9%)


Using CP will make the culprit change his attitude towards work and teacher, but could weaken social attitudes.

109 (22.4%)

150 (30.9%)

107 (27.0%)

120  (24.7%)


Punching, pinching and knocking on the head will enhance disrespect to the teacher and lead to poor social interaction.

13 (2.7%)

76 (15.7%)

107 (22.1%)

289 (59.6%)


Teachers’ powers are not limited, hence they can give the offender extra work during break which can lead to negative attitudes.

16 (3.3%)

21 (4.3%)

186 (38.4%)

262 54.0%)


Learners do not like being given more work in class and undermines teacher authority.

69 (14.3%)

201 (41.7%)

166 (34.4%)

46 (9.5%)


Teacher authority is not respected as learners do not accept detention orders anymore since the banning of CP.

71 (14.6%)

278 (57.2%)

188 (22.2%)

29 (6.0%)


Teachers have no power to chase the culprit out of the class, this aggravates teacher disrespect and leads to poor social cohesion

50 (10.4%)

220 (45.9%)

172 (35.9%)

37 (7.7%)


Teacher authority is undermined by learners as they refuse to take any form of advice and this threatens social aspects of life.

49 (10.2%)

226 (47%)

163 (33.9%)

43 (8.95%)


Figure 1: Teacher and learner responses with regard to corporal punishment and its effect on misconduct

The analysis indicates that 39% of the respondents believed that teacher authority (t/a) was undermined because they had no power to deduct learners’ marks, while 61% indicated the contrary. 61% indicated that refusing to mark late submission of work does not improve learners’ attitude towards teachers, hence is undermined. 79.9% of the respondents believed that teachers do not have serious discussions with learners regarding non-submission of work because teachers do not have much authority due to CP being outlawed.Furthermore, 73.3% asserted that teachers do not reprimand lazy learners because their authority is under-mined, while 26.7% believed the contrary. Only 28.4% indicated that teachers do not have the power to use sarcasm to ridicule learners, while the majority said they had the power to do so. 75.5% of respondents pointed out that teachers had no power to insult learners who do not do their work, hence is seriously undermined. 61.3% of the participants said that teachers do not exclude lazy learners from the group as they have no right to do so. 57.2% agreed that teachers cannot refuse privileges to the off ending learners as his/her authority is limited. 53.3% argued that CP will not change student attitudes towards the educator.81.7% concurred that punching, pinching and other measures will not help learners to respect the teacher.Only 7.6% accepted the fact that teachers’ powers are not limited, but 92.4% believed that they have limitedpower to give extra work. 56% agreed that students do not like being given more work as they undermine t/a. 72.2% believe that t/a is not respected any longer since learners do not accept detention orders. 56.3%of respondents indicated that teachers no longer have the power to chase students out of the class and fi -nally, 57.2% concur that t/a is undermined since the abolition of CP as learners refuse to take any form of advice from them.

7.2. Relationship between abolishing corporal punishment and teacher authority

Based on the findings of the study, it is evident that the abolition of corporal punishment played a part in undermining teacher authority as applied at schools. However, the chi-squared test applied to the findings shows an insignificant relationship between the abolition of corporal punishment, teacher authority and maintaining social cohesion at schools. Consequently, there was no need to reject the null hypothesis; this suggests that there was no significant relationship between the abolition of corporal punishment and the undermining of educator authority and social justice (see Table 4).
Although the data, taken at face-value, indicated that the abolition of physical punishment did have an effect on teacher authority, the chi-squared test applied to the data indicated the contrary, hence the failure to reject the null hypothesis. As the Pearson chi-square (P-value) value was 0.453 greater than 0.05 which is the significant point (Table 4), the null hypothesis could not be rejected. Acceptance of the null hypothesis implied that the abolition of corporal punishment did not play a major role in influencing teacher authority, though the literature survey indicates the contrary.

Table 4: Chi-squared tests




Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)

Exact Sig. (2-sided)

Exact Sig. (1-sided)

Pearson Chi-Square




Continuity Correctionb




Likelihood Ratio




Fisher’s Exact Test



Linear-by-Linear Association




N of Valid Cases


Table results indicate that 3 cells (75.0%) have an expected count of less than 5. The minimum expected count is .33. This implies that the null hypothesis could not be rejected.

8. Discussion

From the theory expounded in the conceptual-theoretical framework and, based on the findings of this study it would seem that the abolition of corporal punishment in schools did play a major role in undermining teacher authority and poor social justice. This is corroborated by Nakpodia (2012) suggesting that there are alleged cases of teachers being threatened by students in the carrying out of their lawful duties. In some cases, these attacks were rather violent. This is further highlighted by Furedi (2016) who asserts that teachers face extreme difficulty in creating a stable learning environment. Teachers are continually tested by learners to the extent that issues of discipline are frequently perceived as a direct threat to teachers;teachers are helpless, they spend a great deal of time dealing with student misbehaviours in order to bring about stability and respect in the teaching-learning environment (Semali &Vumilia, 2016).

However, the chi-squared test administered in this study, suggests no positive relationship between the undermining of teacher authority, social cohesion and the abolition of corporal punishment, hence it can be said that corporal punishment has some merit despite being outlawed. Thus, if used judiciously could bring about a reduction in misbehaviours among students (Goddard, 2017). Arguments against corporal punishment suggest that there is no compelling evidence to prove that physical strikes can improve a child’s behaviour (Russo 2015), hence it is believed that excessive punishment is merely a temporary measure to stop a learner’s bad conduct, posits Gershoff and Gregan-Kaylor (2016).

Although no compelling evidence was forthcoming from the chi-squared test, viz that the abolition of corporal punishment has a major effect on teacher authority and social justice, it must nevertheless be borne in mind that classroom control is thus important to maintain the teaching-learning process. If the teacher is undermined, very little constructive teaching will take place and this leads to the chaos which benefits no-one. Schools need to play a part in restoring and enhancing values of discipline and respect, which ultimately leads to social justice (Chafi, et al., 2016).

Thus it can be asserted that the abolition of physical punishment is a mistake since it leads to poor discipline which undermines teacher authority and teaching commitments (Bailey, Robinson & Coore-Desai,2014; Shaikhnag, Assan & Loate, 2015). On the other hand, international studies have linked corporal punishment to aggressive and increased disruptive behaviour in classrooms, vandalism, poor academic achievement, dislike for school and hostility towards educators (Pheiffer, 2015).

The empirical data in the study reported here were cross-tabulated, and no significant relationship was found between the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and the undermining of teacher authority. Whereas the theoretical analysis of this study seems to suggest that teacher authority was undermined, the chi-squared test applied to the findings suggests no significant relationship existed between the abolition of physical punishment and teacher authority. One reason for this contradiction could be the presence of a possible (and unforeseen) bias inherent in the sample. This bias may have been present despite all efforts to draw a fully representative sample.

9. Conclusion

The chi-squared test applied to the analysed data emphasises that no real connection existed between the abolition of corporal punishment and undermining of teacher authority (Table 4). However, the theoretical aspects of the study clearly indicate that teachers were undermined by learners. Despite this, teachers and principals are not too keen on using corporal punishment as a means of restoring good behaviour.

On the other hand, it must be noted that a school is an important social institution and also a place for promoting social justice. Thus, certain basic regulations governing, controlling and directing the conduct of learners is essential. Discipline therefore is the exercise of educational authority so that the learner may reach his/her goal with regard to education. Discipline is also of importance if social justice is to be enhanced and sustained.

10. Recommendations

In the light of the findings and empirical results, the researchers are of the opinion that though corporal punishment may have its place in society, teachers should refrain from applying it as it is banned by the South African schools act no. 10, hence consider using alternate ways of disciplining learners. The use of alternative measures by teachers will contribute positively to the understanding of learners. Research has shown that alternative ways of dealing with poor discipline have brought about heartening results. On the other hand, some teachers are punitive, rigid and only believe in applying corporal punishment to discipline the child. The modern educationist is however not impressed by such rigidity where there is order, but very little constructive activity on the part of the student. In view of this, we suggest that educationally justifiable measures be put in place such as giving learners good advice and requesting parents to curtail their allowance. Promoting words instead of harsh punitive measures will certainly be useful in developing the mindset of the learner and bring about social harmony.


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[i] Copy of the questionnaire is available from the authors.