UFS study finds initiation does not build character
2015-06-24

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Initiation at schools and school hostels does not build character or loyalty. On the contrary, it is a violation of human dignity and the rights of children.

This is the opinion of researchers from the University of the Free State’s Faculty of Education after an exploratory study of initiation practices in schools.

Although the use of initiation in schools and school hostels is forbidden by the Regulations to Prohibit Initiation Practices in Schools, the study found that this practice is still widely evident in schools. The study also found that, in some cases, teachers and/or principals take part.

In the study, led by Dr Kevin Teise from the Faculty of Education, it was found that physical deeds and even violence and emotional degradation were inflicted under the guise of ‘initiation’.

The study was discussed recently during a panel discussion between the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Law, and the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice.

The ‘initiation activities’ that take place during school hours ranged from carrying senior learners’ bags or doing other favours for them, handing over their food or food money, doing senior learners’ homework, and looking down when they speak to senior learners.

In school hostels, it was found that learners were expected to do humiliating things, and were also subjected to physical demands and even violence. Learners pointed out that they were smeared and beaten, their heads pushed into toilets, they had to bath or shower in cold water, they had to eat strange things, and they were prevented from sleeping.

Dr Teise says initiation practices are a general phenomenon in the schools and school hostels that took part in the investigation. Newcomers were subjected to silly and innocent practices, but also to physically and emotionally degrading, and even dangerous ones, before and after school, and during breaks and sports- and cultural gatherings.

“The study’s findings give every indication that the constitutional principles on which the policy document, Regulations to Prohibit Initiation Practices in Schools, is modelled, are not being put into practice and respected at these schools. Policy documents and school rules are pointless if learners, old pupils, parents, teachers, and the broad community consider initiation an acceptable behaviour that is, ostensibly, an inseparable part of school or hostel tradition and of the maturation and/or team-building processes.”


FACULTY CONTACT

T: +27 51 401 2240 or humanities@ufs.ac.za

Postgraduate:
Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Undergraduate:
Katlego Mabulana: +27 51 401 2495
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

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