The story: ‘Student dies after caning’ in the Daily Monitor of March 27 where a Nyondo Secondary School student in Mbale died after being caned for not doing homework was quite telling.
Ms Florence Bweri, the school head teacher, said: “I am told the teacher had given them work, but those who had not done it were being given a simple lash with a small stick.”
People need to understand that this practice is ongoing in many schools across Uganda. Even after Education ministry put a ban on corporal punishment, many schools continue to cane students at will. As citizens, we should always take action when schools administer corporal punishment by holding head teachers accountable. The ban on corporal punishment must be respected and enforced in all schools. Corporal punishment, even “a simple lash”, is not acceptable.
Even when the violence isn’t so severe as to kill a student, the psychological and emotional consequences are serious and long-lasting and this affects a child’s education in the long-run. It is not about what we do, but how the child experiences it. If we, adults, were to be slapped by our supervisors at work as a way of forcing us to correct our mistakes, the humiliation someone feels with one slap would be just as damaging as with five slaps and more. Although we cannot see emotional injury, it often has just as serious long-term consequences.
Some schools follow the saying that “no pain, no gain”. Many adults have been told throughout their lives that learning occurs when associated with pain. Some have interpreted pain to mean beating. My own schooling taught us to believe that without the threat of the stick, we would become lazy and not exert the effort required to learn.
But we now know that supporting positively and compassionately is more powerful in motivating children (and adults!) than inflicting pain. Pain motivates a behaviour aimed at avoiding pain. Deeper learning such as developing critical thinking skills that children need to succeed in today’s world, requires effort and a safe learning environment, not the threat of physical pain.
Other people cling on the biblical verse, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. Religion never advocates the use of violence against children. The same Bible preaches love and forgiveness. Wouldn’t it be a contradiction if the rod meant beating? We understand the context of the verse as we read in various translations and other related verses.
In any translation, it is about disciplining children by guiding them to appreciate right from wrong.
Program Officer, Raising Voices