The nature of teaching exposes teachers to civil liabilities. In the process of teaching, teachers need to discipline learners who display bad behaviour. In disciplining the pupils, teachers use a variety of punishments which include sending learners outside the classes, suspend them from the hostel or apply minimal corporal punishment.
In doing the said punishments, inadvertently teachers may find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Teachers in their interactions with pupils are expected to maintain law and order in and about schools if meaningful teaching and learning are to take place.
For them to maintain this sense of order, the teachers, finding reinforcement from the concept of in loco parentis – and from the school rules, have the right to punish pupils otherwise the objectives of the schools may not be realised.
Society on the other hand expects teachers to be experts on all matters that are brought to bear on their schools.
The legal documents that guide the teacher’s practice are tenuous in so far as guiding the teachers’ professional life, particularly in respect to the law against wrongs to individuals is concerned.
These documents deal mainly with procedures and consequences should teachers contravene certain procedures and provisions of the Acts.
Learners’ rights are continuously being challenged and blamed for causing what some refer to as ‘unprecedented lawlessness’ among the pupils who wittingly or unwittingly wrongly interpret their rights in a similar way some people wrongly interpret the concept of ‘democracy’ as boundless or irresponsible freedom.
Several teachers have argued that, ‘until children are capable of exercising responsibility, the demand for their rights will remain premature.’
The rights for children, they contend, not only threatens the stability of family life but also threatens the maintenance of order in schools.
Despite these controversies, the law is cruel to teachers who lose their tempers and punish pupils. The modern parent is very quick in seeking legal recourse against unfair treatment to their child.
Before an offending teacher can know it, his or her next knock at the door could be a contentious parent threatening litigation.
There is growing evidence in Namibia of awareness by the pupils and their parents of the rights and fundamental freedom of the child in education.
The actions by individual parents or small groups of learners are indirectly and slowly agitating for schools to be strictly run according to the rule of law.
The wearing of school uniform by pupils and the adoption or prohibition of certain hairstyles in keeping with the school ethos is not a statutory rule, yet teachers continue returning pupils home for non-compliance.
Is the law really helping shape the responsible citizens or is it rather blindfolding them to excel in school?
While the authors intend to explore the pitfalls of the pupils’ rights, it is worthy to note that they are not against the law or its position as an important guideline of the educational system but wishes the law to be amended in the protection of the teachers against legal liabilities.