The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Bible 'Endorses' Spanking

Windhoek Gymnasium teachers 'assault' trial starts the Katutura Magistrate's Court yesterday heard Biblical justifications for corporal punishment of children.

The case was that of a parent who took Windhoek Gymnasium, a private school, to court for beating his son.

According to Raymond Heathcote, the Bible endorses corporal punishment administered by Windhoek Gymnasium.

Heathcote is acting on behalf of school principal Stephanus van Zyl and teachers Etienne Odendaal, George Frederick Maartens and Estelle Oberholzer.

All four pleaded not guilty before Magistrate Helvi Shilemba yesterday morning.

They landed in the dock after Leon van Eck, the father of a former pupil, laid criminal charges against them.

Oberholzer allegedly hit the boy three times on each hand on February 5 2010 because he scored four out of ten for a test.

On February 18, Odendaal allegedly hit the boy on the backside because he failed to have a test paper signed by his parents.

This incident left him and his family "shocked", Van Eck testified yesterday.

Less than three weeks later, Oberholzer allegedly beat the boy again - this time because he scored eight out of ten for a test.

The next day, the principal, Van Zyl, allegedly gave the boy a hiding because he had written an English essay on a loose sheet of paper instead of in an exercise book. According to Van Eck, one could see marks on his backside as a result of the hiding.

Van Zyl testified that he confronted the principal about this and an undertaking was made that the boy would not be beaten again.

The principal also informed teachers in the staff room that the Van Eck boy should not be beaten, the court heard.

On March 15, Van Zyl phoned Van Eck to inform him about "an unfortunate incident" during which Maartens, the physical education teacher, had beaten the boy.

This came after the boy and four other classmates left their training gear at home.

Van Eck denied that he was aware that the boys had left the gymnasium giggling after the hiding.

Heathcote yesterday put it to Van Eck that Maartens was apparently not in the staff room when Van Zyl told them to stop hitting the boy.

The school is not denying that any of the beatings took place.

After the last incident, Van Eck removed his son from the school and enrolled him elsewhere.

Questioned by Heathcote, Van Eck denied that he himself administered corporal punishment while he was an accounting teacher at the coast years ago,.

He maintained that he and his wife oppose corporal punishment, irrespective of the reasons.

Van Eck further disagreed when Heathcote told him that he accepted the school's Biblical stance on discipline when he enrolled his child.

Heathcote quoted two verses from Proverbs. Proverbs 22 verse 15 states: "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him." Proverbs 19 verse 18 states: "Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death."

Van Eck said according to his understanding of the Bible, he needs to protect his son.

Public Prosecutor Erich Naikaku represents the State.

The trial is expected to continue before Magistrate Shilemba in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court today.

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