Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment en­hanced my learn­ing

We never felt abused, we never felt unloved and we never felt re­jected

Cape Argus - - OPINION - Si­waphiwe My­ataza

AT Zimele Se­nior Se­condary School in Ikhwezi town­ship in Mthatha, we all knew and re­spected the rules of the schools. Not that we had any choice, be­cause our strong, beau­ti­ful and dis­ci­plined prin­ci­pal Mrs Hardy never cre­ated a room for clowns.

You ei­ther be­haved or you would find your­self com­manded to go get your own stick from the near­est tree, a stick that would harshly visit your tiny hands.

From be­ing late at school, not do­ing home­work, at­tain­ing 49 out of 50 in a test, to bul­ly­ing – that didn’t ex­ist at Hardy’s premises.

Yes, at­tain­ing 49 out of 50 marks qual­i­fied you for a lash­ing. Mr Da­mane, my Xhosa and maths teacher, would al­ways em­pha­sise that get­ting less than the to­tal marks was an in­sult to him, be­cause he stood in front of us, ex­plained the work, and we nod­ded to no­tify we un­der­stood, but in a test, we scored the op­po­site. For that you would get a hid­ing.

We never felt abused, we never felt unloved and we never felt re­jected.

It was hurt­ing, but it was fun, be­cause some in my class would jump and roam the en­tire class­room when it was their turn to get lashes.

That made us laugh at each other, but we laughed at each oth­ers’ fears with love.

Such in­stances helped us grow, and our learn­ing process im­proved daily be­cause we never wanted to dis­ap­point our par­ents. But over­all, a beat­ing was some­thing we avoided at all times.

For me that was dis­ci­pline. In the morn­ing, you would wake up, bath, dress, eat your break­fast and leave early, be­cause you didn’t want Mrs Hardy to by any chance to close the school gate while you were out­side the premises.

If you were un­lucky enough to find your­self out­side by the time school had started, you knew ex­actly what to ex­pect. Col­lect lit­ter pa­pers in the school yard, or plough the gar­den: it was your choice to make. But be­fore you chose, at least two lashes had to visit your tiny hand. That made learn­ers, in­clud­ing my­self, trans­form and be dis­ci­plined chil­dren.

Do you know what a black­board wiper is? That I re­spect. When it was rain­ing and you couldn’t go out­side to get a stick that was meant to dis­ci­pline you, black­board wipers did the job. You just had to put your fin­gers to­gether and por­tray a lit­tle moun­tain, then the wiper would beat you on the tips of your fin­gers al­most close to your nails.

That re­ally hurt, but we never felt a need to hold any grudge to­wards the teacher, be­cause there was a spirit that al­ways re­vealed to us that we were be­ing re­formed into some­thing great.

We were be­ing dis­ci­plined, and there was never a time when we wres­tled with a teacher be­cause teach­ers only used sticks to beat our hands, not fists, smack­ing or any vi­o­lent ges­tures to­wards us. That never hap­pened to us.

The truth is, we were re­ally be­ing en­hanced. To­day, Zimele Se­nior Se­condary School has a fat rep­u­ta­tion in the East­ern Cape. Just to brag, our own Nkosi­nathi In­no­cent Ma­phu­mulo, aka Black Cof­fee, is a prod­uct of Zimele. And of course, other dis­ci­plined in­di­vid­u­als like my­self, we were all pro­duced at Zimele in the East­ern Cape.

What they call cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment en­hanced our learn­ing and helped us re­veal the best ver­sions of our­selves. But that was then: times have changed.

Nowa­days, learn­ers have rights more than re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. But for us, a teacher would beat you and tell you that at school, you are a child and a teacher is your par­ent.

It worked for us, mainly be­cause we con­cen­trated more on our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and we could there­fore bal­ance what was ex­pected from us as learn­ers with the man­date of our school.

I am how­ever, not against chil­dren’s rights in South Africa – I am just paint­ing a pic­ture of my school­ing path back at Zimele Se­nior Se­condary School in Mthatha.

I fully re­spects Sec­tion 28 in the con­sti­tu­tion of South Africa, which is de­voted to chil­dren and out­lines the rights that they are en­ti­tled to.

The sec­tion states that ev­ery child has the right not to be re­quired or per­mit­ted to per­form work or pro­vide ser­vices that place at risk the child’s well-be­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, phys­i­cal or men­tal health or spir­i­tual, moral or so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Sec­tion 28 con­tin­ues to state that a child has the right to fam­ily care or parental care and has a right to be pro­tected from mal­treat­ment, ne­glect, abuse or degra­da­tion.

Per­son­ally, I ac­knowl­edge all these rights but I am a bit un­com­fort­able, be­cause as a child I never felt en­ti­tled to them – maybe I was too child­ish.

I was a child, my job was to go to school, get good marks, eat, play, shop for Christ­mas and spend time with my fam­ily; that was my child­hood. I re­ally never had time to mon­i­tor the abuse go­ing on at my school, if by any chance it ex­isted.

Per­haps I was abused, but be­cause of the norms that had flooded my school en­vi­ron­ment, I was blinded. I se­ri­ously wouldn’t know, but be­ing pun­ished when I do wrong never felt like an abuse.

Ei­ther way, I am happy that I went through ev­ery­thing I ex­pe­ri­enced at Zimele Se­nior Se­condary School – I am a bet­ter child be­cause of all the dis­ci­pline that was in­stilled in me by the teach­ers, and, of course, work­ing with my par­ents.

PIC­TURE: ZANELE ZULU

SCHOOL MARKS: We never wres­tled with a teacher, be­cause they only used sticks to beat our hands, not fists.

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