“Before debating about corporal punishment we better do a root cause analysis for the same and establish available options.”
Trying times these are. With a year of education lost due to the effects of a global pandemic and barely a month into the new year and resumption of studies, we have been faced with unrest in our schools. From fights with teachers, fires and demonstrations among others, it is a growing concern. This evening as I was watching the news, I was concerned and worried that as a nation we are at the point of debating whether to have corporal punishment brought back to schools. Before getting to the discourse, my most pertinent and critical question would be what it’s meant to achieve.
Indiscipline among young people is a concern and this is evidenced by the recent cases that we have witnessed in schools. Students are restless, traumatized, and unguided in some form, culminating in all the vices and uproar we are witnessing. I schooled during the era of corporal punishment where we got a beating for the mistakes we committed. On my account, I can say I deserved some of the beatings, while in other cases it would not have been the best approach. For those moments I felt like it was justified, I was made to understand the reason why my actions were unacceptable and why I was being punished for them. On the same note, I found it critical that not only were teachers involved in disciplinary matters but also parents had a role to play in it as well. In the current dispensation, we have a generation of young people not disciplined or corrected on anything from home, transitioning with the same mentality to schools where the teachers are expected to instill discipline in them. The modalities of achieving this are not clear cut and whenever a teacher takes an approach that does not align with the parent they face rebuke and public humiliation. Not only does this make them take a step back in disciplinary action but also downplays their instructing and teaching role.
Nurturing a child is a societal responsibility and in some way, we have downplayed that role. As parents, we have taken up provision as our main approach to nurturing children. Beyond provision, we leave the caretaking bit to house managers, childcare specialists, and teachers in schools. Unfortunately, the disconnect keeps growing and when that happens, developing a holistic individual becomes a tall order. Listening to accounts of parents and teachers, I am left wondering whose responsibility it should be to nurture these children because everyone is shifting the blame. Children are not open to speak up to parents or even their teachers about hurdles they face and this is one reason that has been fronted in their approach to solving problems by revolting. It is unfortunate, but on the same account, we need to ask ourselves as teachers and parents if at all we have granted children a safe environment in which they can connect with us and talk about their lives. If we had such a chance, then it would be better to get to the discourse of approach in addressing indiscipline among children. This would even factor the corporal punishment discourse but before we do that, all we are doing is cosmetic surgery to a deep-rooted infestation in our midst.
Children are acting in the best way they know how as learnt from society, which is a reflection of how we have carried ourselves for the longest time; with utmost disregard for values, discipline, decorum, and nobility. Our most primal instinct is to achieve our immediate desire. The cost of doing so does not count provided we get it, and that is why we see fires blazing in dormitories, politicians using the youth to gain scores against others and it is normal.
Let us rethink our approach by understanding the genesis of our current challenges then establishing modalities to address them sustainably.