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CORPORAL PUNISHMENT - ARE TEACHERS GETTING MESSAGE?

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Schools opened this week, and besides the excitement there is schizophrenia and panic in the minds of learners thinking about the prospect of chastisement.

While the Constitution permits what is termed ‘reasonable chastisement’ of the child, most schools in other societies have outlawed corporal punishment. But surprisingly, cases of extreme chastisement, battery and bashing continue unabated in some schools depending on the philosophy of the head teacher at the helm.


In a neighbouring state for instance, listening to this subject being discussed at length on the radio, corporal punishment was outlawed, to the degree that it is both a dismissible offence for the teacher and a crime as well to engage in this. Teachers in this country risk having their teaching licences revoked for this act in extreme cases.


In Swaziland as well, my information is that it is also outlawed, or is it that a limit to four lashes is applied? I forget, but we still hear of cases of learners reporting brutality by some teachers, some overdoing it to the extent where it is considered to be beyond the realm of reasonableness. Bashing learners with fists and kicks sometimes is commonplace. Closer to home we had one learner lose an eye, while in the neighbouring state, a head teacher kicked and bashed a 14-year-old boy causing him to twist his spinal code to the point of paralysing him waist-down.


The boy now is a vegetable, and is back to using diapers, all in the name of corporal punishment! Sad accounts these. And you ask yourself how, as a parent you are expected to deal with this dilemma. Your son or daughter goes to school like normal but returns home lame or with an eye missing!


And the question you ask is, what are teachers doing bashing the learners? Which part of the rules against corporate punishment do they not understand? It has to be admitted that a majority of teachers do not do this, it is just a few who are notorious for this. These I would be inclined to think are shallow minds, who for loss of words opt to go physical. My granny used to tell me that people who quickly resort to fighting have small minds, they cannot convince others about their point of view and find that the only way to get their way with others is through the application of maximum force.


The Bible does teach that when you spare the rod you spoil the child, however, I do not suppose it talks of the bashing that takes place. Again the rod in its broad sense is discipline not necessarily chastisement as inferred in Psalm 23:4(d).
And discipline is better administered by a parent not a stranger! Question is what is perpetrating this? Well, if one looks at his past, we each have our horror stories on this one.

In days past, the prevalent discipline administered to pupils has been chastisement, period. Today, we now talk of progressive discipline, in other forms of punishment besides chastisement. I know this is a hot potato for most parents, but I seem to hold the view that these other methods work just as much for correction of behaviour.

Take for instance committing errant pupils to digging trenches (after school or break time but not during lessons because that could also be counterproductive), detentions and so on. These measures work just as much to discipline, and if anything, would create a positive outlook at life. After all, discipline is intended to correct emotional behaviour as opposed to inflicting physical pain.

My philosophy in my own life has been to talk and reason with my children from early childhood when things go wrong and the results have been impressive. I know I was not without critics on this approach, just as I will now, but I am convinced that you can also have good discipline going without lifting a finger.


The key to this is understanding that not all discipline has to include chastisement. Some of us yes, have been raised by constant chastisement by parents whose only way of discipline was chastisement, but that doesn’t mean we should continue the cycle of bashing. And stop we must, because what starts as reasonable chastisement degenerates into grievous bodily harm as we get carried away in our emotions.


The case with the paralyzed boy started as simple chastisement but ended as the disaster we hear about today. The trouble is that the teacher cannot retract what he did, and the parents must now live with a boy who was born healthy and is now turned paralytic.

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