To be on the receiving end of a cane, is the common nightmare of nearly every kid who’s strongly extroverted, unsuccessful at maths, consistent with poor grades, reports late to school, fails to turn in assignments as and when due, unlucky to be included in mass punishments and likewise, other varieties of offenses that could warrant being inflicted with a good measure of bodily pain.
Caning a child to enhance performance, or modify character, is a disguised act of slavery! It’s no different from beating a horse in order to get the best out of it, or the consistent use of the whip by colonial slave owners in ensuring compliance and control over the early black slaves. School children are twice as much terrified of teachers holding sticks, than they are of angry soldiers armed with guns. With every stroke of the cane, the self-esteem of a child is slowly demolished. How much longer should children tolerate being whipped in school?
Corporal punishment has outlived its usefulness. Long lasting discipline isn’t enforced through beating a child with a stick. It is rather enforced through love, patience, genuine concern, effective counseling and tolerance. Violence against children in whatever form, is a violation of the rights of the child. You cannot discipline a child for wrongdoing, by wrongly violating his or her rights. Two wrongs do not make a right. It is therefore the right of every child to politely refuse physical maltreatment.
I’m often referred to the biblical instruction on the use of the ‘rod’ in child-rearing. Well, God didn’t issue any of such command. Solomon did, and likewise, other opinionated authors of the Book of Proverbs. It’s about time Christians won the war on differentiating between God’s direct commands and the private opinions of biblical characters.
Many times, angry teachers take out their frustration on students. Amazingly, while some teachers go as far as caning students on their backs and necks, other teachers awfully discipline their students with a ridiculous number of strokes of the cane. Recently, I made small talk with a group of school children who narrated to me how one of them was mercilessly caned 52 times by his female teacher for forgetting a notebook at home.
Nigeria must urgently tag along with other progressive nations in Africa who’ve rightfully abolished all forms of violence against children. Corporal punishment is not a guarantee for modification of character, neither has it eradicated indiscipline in schools despite our heavy reliance on its use. It only guarantees fear, low self-esteem and eventual rebellion. Teachers should learn to think outside the box for creative and effective ways of disciplining deviant children. Violating the rights of the child isn’t one of them!
By Nimi Princewill
Nimi Princewill is a Nigerian-born writer and social reformer.
Email: [email protected]