School teacher's desk. Picture: THE TIMES
School teacher's desk. Picture: THE TIMES

Child protection organisation Save the Children SA wants the government to train teachers in "positive discipline" as a means of reducing violence in schools.

On Tuesday, the organisation presented its initiatives to prevent violence against children‚ including its "positive discipline in everyday teaching" programme‚ to Parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education.

The programme advocates that if teachers are on the "same level" as pupils‚ there will be no power struggles. "Our package is actually saying that for us to reduce violence in schools the teacher and the learner need to be at the same level. Once the teacher is above‚ it means that there is use of power towards the child."

Gugu Xaba, the organisation’s programmes director‚ said: "The training helps them have agreement with the learner so learning is easy rather than when power is used and the children become resistant and there is ill discipline and then there are problems."

The organisation emphasised that positive discipline is not about permissiveness‚ letting pupils do whatever they want‚ or having no rules‚ limits or expectations.

"We are recommending that we have to have good quality and skilled educators because they need to recognise violence even before it’s reported, and when it’s reported‚ they need to be able to know how exactly to manage it‚ refer appropriately and follow up appropriately.

"There is also a need to make sure that the Department of [Basic] Education strengthens the relationship between the teacher‚ the learner and the parent. We can be able to deal with violence if that triangle is working together‚" Xaba said.

She believes that teachers would not be opposed to being trained on positive discipline. "Save the Children is already training teachers in Johannesburg‚ Durban‚ Ulundi‚ Limpopo and Ekurhuleni. In these areas we are working in‚ teachers understand the value of working with children. We even have more and more enquiries about this training."

But Save the Children says it cannot do it alone. "We actually told the committee today that we can only do this as much as we are donor funded. We can’t cover the whole country. The package is there for them to train teachers. It’s now up to them."

The programme’s guidelines‚ which were compiled by Save the Children in Sweden‚ encourages teachers to provide warmth and structure in their classrooms. The author, Joan E Durrant, states that in warm environments‚ students are much more likely to be co-operative‚ have fewer behavioural problems and are less distractible.

"They are not anxious‚ so they are less restless. And they come to associate the classroom with positive feelings‚ so their love of learning grows‚" Durrant says.

She recommends that teachers provide structure by "acting as positive role models and mentors‚ explaining the reasons for rules‚ involving pupils in setting rules‚ hearing pupils’ points of view‚ helping them find ways to fix their mistakes in a way that helps to learn‚ being fair‚ controlling anger‚ and avoiding threats".