SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD?
Recently, a warden in Pakshikha Central School in Chhukha hit two students sparking off a long muffled debate on the controversial issue of corporal punishment in schools.
It was reported that one of the students had to receive medical treatment due to the abuse meted out by the warden, and in an internal settlement of dispute, the perpetrator had to shell out Nu 55,000 to the students’ parents.
Though Bhutan as a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child has banned corporal punishment, we can still hear of cases involving the practice.
The concept of corporal punishment originated in the western world especially the classical civilizations of Greece, Rome and Sparta. Forms of corporal punishment include domestic or home discipline, school and prison or judicial discipline.
After humanitarian rights and laws were propounded, corporal punishment has been on the decline until as of April 2017, 52 countries in the world, mostly from Europe and Latin America had banned the practice.
How do you relate all this in the context of Bhutan? Is our country still primitive in its educational and upbringing practices? The Bhutanese society has borne corporal punishment as a norm until in recent years the practice is seen as a scourge literally.
Does corporal punishment work? Why was it effective in the past? To think logically, corporal punishment became popular because it produced a mentality of subjugation through fear tactics. It would still be successful today but only through intimidation methods.
Corporal punishment also lasted long in Bhutan because it produced a school and societal regimen that lacked free thinkers. Basically the dictum was: “Do as the authority says otherwise you cannot be right.”
While the occasional spanking maybe necessary and unavoidable to bring young children to their senses, the problem starts when corporal punishment crosses the line, hinging on physical and mental abuse causing trauma in young, impressionable minds and bodies.
It also becomes a problem when authorities take it for granted that the only solution to a problem is lashing and caning. When they do not make extra efforts to enforce positive discipline in the form of counseling, advice, and disciplining through productive tasks instead of wielding the rod every time a student errs.
Granted that it will be an uphill task for teachers to discipline children positively: some are willfully mischievous and almost malevolent, but we also have to understand youthful inclinations and moods. And given that teachers are the caretakers of the most important resource of the country: youth, they must strive to not only mould them but also do so with utmost care.
If the caretakers become enemies, who will take on the duties of educating, protecting and nurturing? This applies to parents as well because the role of the family in shaping a youngster can never be replaced by the educational system.
The family has to be actively involved with the school authorities in shaping up a child or adolescent’s formative years. This means blame games are best avoided and confrontations should be sorted out with mutual understanding and good will.
At the end, what we need is a generation that knows and shows the power of love and positivity in an increasingly hatred-incited world. And this can be done if the community members work in synergy with each other.
Corporal punishment can be used to discipline if one knows how and when to use it, which would demand prudence from the one using it, but why risk its many possible negative effects when one could always fare better with sustained positive discipline?