Corporal punishment enhanced my learning
We never felt abused, we never felt unloved and we never felt rejected
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.
SCHOOL MARKS: We never wrestled with a teacher, because they only used sticks to beat our hands, not fists.