Corporal punishment in schools
The issue of corporal punishment in schools was brought to the fore recently following the release of a video online showing a teacher flogging pupils, including female pupils, in a school in Nasarawa State. To say that so much outrage trailed the video is to put it mildly.
But beyond the expression of anger over the violent flogging and the call by various groups and individuals for severe sanction against the erring teachers, there are several issues that need to be resolved to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.
First, should there be punishment for unruly or bad behaviour by pupils? If so, then what form should the punishment take? In other words, what should be the appropriate punishment for misdemeanour by pupils? But if the preponderance of sentiment is that pupils should not be punished, then how should misconduct in schools be curbed? Before now, pupils in both primary and secondary schools were flogged by teachers for disobedience and disorderly behaviour and it was never an issue. Pupils bore the punishment stoically, knowing full well that it was deserved.
They never went back home to report such floggings to their parents. Even if they did, such parents were likely to punish the children further. But things have since changed. Today’s parents, who were themselves subjected to such corporal punishment as kids and who did not turn out as psychological wrecks, are the ones vehemently opposed to flogging in schools. Indeed, these parents encourage their children to report to them whenever a teacher flogs them and never hesitate to take matters into their own hands by going to the school to mete out punishment to the offending teacher for having the effrontery to flog their children.
The recent case in Anambra State where a family went to the school and beat to death a female teacher who flogged their child is still very fresh. While we note that corporal punishment in schools has become anachronistic in the modern society heavily influenced by Western standards where children routinely call 911 on their parents, we are also constrained to caution parents not to be too quick to rush to schools to ‘deal’ with erring teachers. On the other hand, we must also stress the point even more emphatically that schools should find more creative ways to reprimand infractions rather than recourse to some relic from our colonial past.
School managements must be more involved; they must be aware at all times what their teachers are doing in this regard. The kinds of punishments that must be meted out to pupil (where absolutely necessary) must be well spelt out and they must not be disproportionate to the offence. Indeed, given the way society has evolved, flogging in schools has to be completely discouraged. There should be other agreeable ways of punishing erring pupils. For instance, they could be deprived of their favourite leisure activity; they could be stopped from partaking in group sporting exercises with their mates.
They could also be made to do frog jump or cut grass; the only problem with the latter is that many of the schools these days, especially the private ones, do not have any grass to cut. ‘Pick pin’ was another form of punishment which used to be an old favourite of teachers and a few minutes of ‘pick pin’ never failed to achieve the desired result.
Of course, government has an even bigger role to play in the whole matter of corporal punishment. Laws clearly stating that flogging has been banned in schools must be made. Government must also spell out what kinds of punishment, when it becomes necessary, teachers can use to discipline unruly pupils. It is also not enough to enact laws without monitoring their enforcement. In the particular case of Nasarawa State, corporal punishment had been banned across the 13 local governments and 18 development areas in the state, yet the school still went ahead to administer such violent punishment on the pupils.
The questions that immediately arise are, was the school unaware of the ban on corporal punishment? Did the state Ministry of Education communicate such ban when it took effect to the schools? Obviously, there was a lacuna somewhere. This gap must not be allowed to happen again; government must clearly spell out what the standards are and also ensure that they are adhered to.
Finally, there are legal implications for inflicting bodily harm, permanent damage or even death in the course of administering corporal punishment to pupils. For instance, a teacher was once sentenced to seven years imprisonment for flogging a pupil to death.
The teacher had flogged the female pupil earlier, but she reported to her father who accompanied her to school the next day to register his reservations. The teacher flogged the pupil again after her father left. Unfortunately, the girl fainted and it took sometime before they realised it, by which time it was too late. So, both parents and teachers should be more circumspect. They should not give way to emotion as there are implications for both sides in case of extreme actions.