Corporal punishment remains at dilemma

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As the number of schools being burnt by pupils increases every day, those charged with the education docket are left with one question: “Should corporal punishment be reintroduced to our schools?”

Corporal punishment in school refers to causing deliberate pain or discomfort in response to undesired behaviour by students.

It often involves striking the student either across the buttocks or on the hands with an implement such as a rattan cane, leather strap or wooden yardstick.

Less commonly, it could also include spanking or smacking the student with the open hand.

Many people argue that they commit such atrocities because they expect no serious consequences especially after withdrawal of corporal punishment.

Rajab* (not her real name) is on one the parents who supports return of corporal punishment. Her granddaughter was sent back home a few days ago because she was among those suspected to be planning to down their school.

Miriam, 16 years old, showed no sign of remorse The 16 year old girl because she hates the school that she recently joined in Kajiado County. Her resentment stems from the fact that male teachers in the school tend to have a tendency of sexually harassing female students and even when they complain to the head teacher no action is taken. The girls say that instead they are victimized for telling on the teachers.

When asked if corporal punishment should be re-introduced Miriam is reluctant to answer. “How do you allow a person who is already committing a crime of sexually harassing students to practice corporal punishment?” Miriam asks.

George* a Form Three student at Lang’ata Boys’ High School, which was recently burnt also supports corporal punishment. According to George there are types of indiscipline that can only be eradicated through beating. “Personally I would not be here if my primary school teachers didn’t discipline me well. At some point I even dropped out of school but my dad took me back and gave the teachers instruction to discipline me as deemed fit,” explains George .

He is disappointed that he will be contributing to rebuilding the burnt dormitory yet he was not involved in the destruction.

However, Dr David Wanyonyi, an academician in Nairobi disagrees with the re-introduction of corporal punishment. According to Wanyonyi, reintroducing corporal punishment shows one way in which society wants to run away from its responsibilities.

“If everyone took responsibility over their children and that of their neighbours’ children then we wouldn’t have such problems,” Wanyonyi notes.

Wanyonyi also blames parents and the society for not showing a good example to the children.  “We have taught our children that for us to get what we want then the only language that can be understood is demonstration and burning things,” Wanyonyi notes. “They have seen their parents and teachers do that so how do you convince them that it’s wrong to burn schools?”

Noting that the current group of students are not scared of canes or police, Wanyonyi recommends that the Government and school management should make schools a happy environment for the students so that they can enjoy their stay that way they would not think of burning schools.

“This does not mean that you pamper them. It is just that you give room for communications especially for them to express their grievances,” suggests Wanyonyi. He adds: “In some schools the policies are read out to like laws yet students don’t like laws.”

Gordon Owuor, a retired teacher who taught in several primary schools in Kisumu and now lives in Kawangware, Nairobi County says that corporal punishment should not be reintroduced because it inflicts both physical and mental pain.

“Some teachers are usually waiting for any opportunity to release their stress by beating pupils and woe unto you if you fall victim,” Owuor says.

Further adding that many children have been rendered disabled, got serious injuries or even died because of corporal punishment.

At 72 years, Owuor says he has never heard or seen a teacher who has been charged for those offences. For him, taking time to talk to students or giving other manual punishments is the best.

“The student gets exhausted and gets time to reflect on his mistakes. Discipline is meant to correct the student not cause harm,” says Owuor.

According to Owuor, teachers should be vigilant and keen enough to identify indisciplined children amongst the others and treat their case as special.

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