‘Six of the best’ can do won­ders for kids

Post - - Comment - YO­GIN DEVAN

IAM NOT a pop star, so it mat­ters not to me if some peo­ple dis­agree with what I am about to say. If you want to be rid of most of the prob­lems af­flict­ing youth to­day, such as drug and al­co­hol abuse, vi­o­lence in school and in­sub­or­di­na­tion, bring back the cane.

Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga will soon pub­lish a pro­to­col es­tab­lish­ing uni­form stan­dards to deal with teach­ers guilty of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

She is con­cerned that de­spite it be­ing out­lawed 20 years ago, cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment is still very much alive in South African schools.

If Mot­shekga wants to make a real dif­fer­ence to the be­hav­iour of youth – and its con­comi­tant im­pact on so­ci­ety at large – she must rein­tro­duce “six of the best”.

I say “bol­locks” to those who pro­claim that cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment ad­versely af­fects a pupil’s self-im­age and school achieve­ment and may con­trib­ute to dis­rup­tive and vi­o­lent be­hav­iour.

This ar­gu­ment can stay put in doc­toral re­search the­ses.

The truth is that there are many up­stand­ing and hon­ourable mem­bers of so­ci­ety, who at­tribute their moral and ma­te­rial suc­cesses in life to the whack­ing they re­ceived from par­ents and teach­ers for mis­be­haviour.

I, and there must be many oth­ers, dreaded pun­ish­ment from par­ents for mis­de­meanours at home.

My mother would use her work-worn hands to smack her chil­dren for first de­gree of­fences such as ar­gu­ing, be­ing stub­born and not help­ing around the house.

A leather belt would be used for sec­ond de­gree mis­deeds such as ly­ing and us­ing bad lan­guage.

Third de­gree vi­o­la­tions were re­ferred to my fa­ther for pun­ish­ment.

Break­ing a win­dow pane with a ball or poor end-of-term re­sults earned my brother and I strokes across the but­tocks with the dreaded cane.

My sis­ters re­ceived cuts across the palms.

I can clearly re­call the fear and trep­i­da­tion that built up as time ticked to­wards the hour when my fa­ther would ar­rive tired from af­ter-work meet­ings.

As promised, my mother would lay the com­plaint that would see my fa­ther mete out cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

Wear­ing an ex­tra pair of thick pants hardly helped in less­en­ing the sting­ing pain, which lasted a few hours.

How­ever, while the pain and marks were gone by the fol­low­ing morn­ing, the les­son learnt from the can­ing en­sured good be­hav­iour for many months to come.

If the pun­ish­ment at home was not enough, teach­ers had carte blanche to pun­ish er­rant pupils.

There was an un­writ­ten de­cree that saw par­ents hand over their chil­dren to teach­ers with the free­dom to do with them what­ever they deemed best for eight hours a day.

Some teach­ers were more re­strained than oth­ers in the use of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

Then there were those who de­rived dis­ci­pline by beat­ing their charges with any­thing that was handy – a cane, a wooden ruler edged with a strip of metal or the chalk­board duster.

You dare not re­port at home that you were given a thrash­ing at school.

Par­ents of my gen­er­a­tion sim­ply whacked you more for break­ing a school rule.

And if the wal­lop­ing at school was still not enough, there was al­ways Tamil school in the late af­ter­noon that would guar­an­tee you a spank­ing for play­ing tru­ant or not do­ing the al­lot­ted home­work.

Hav­ing to ne­go­ti­ate such a maze of pun­ish­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties – the home, English school and Tamil school – cer­tainly did not cre­ate more delin­quents.

As an old school ed­u­ca­tor, my fa­ther was not le­nient with the use of the cane.

Fre­quently I meet peo­ple whose back­sides were at the re­ceiv­ing end of his anger and an­noy­ance.

They swear it was the pun­ish­ment they re­ceived that con­tributed to their vir­tu­ous and wor­thy de­vel­op­ment.

More than ever be­fore, strong lead­er­ship is needed in the class­room af­ter years of teach­ers’ au­thor­ity be­ing un­der­mined.

Teach­ers must again be given the power and free­dom to dis­ci­pline un­ruly pupils.

Mot­shekga must be pressed to rein­tro­duce smack­ing and can­ing for bad be­hav­iour.

Twenty years ago, the cane was a good de­ter­rent and most times it was a last re­sort.

Pun­ish­ment was not about mak­ing school life mis­er­able, but about show­ing chil­dren that sanc­tions will be en­forced and that their ac­tions will have con­se­quences.

Phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment was not meted out for each and ev­ery wrong­do­ing.

Some­times for mi­nor rules that were trans­gressed, you were sent to stand out­side the class, de­tained af­ter school or made to write out 100 lines – such as “I will do my home­work”.

In the days when the cane was a manda­tory ob­ject in the head­mas­ter’s of­fice, there was hardly any van­dal­is­ing of school prop­erty or as­sault­ing of teach­ers.

Tra­di­tion­ally, pun­ish­ment – even of a phys­i­cal na­ture –be­gan at home and helped in­cul­cate ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour in chil­dren.

The penalty for ill-dis­ci­pline was also ex­tended to the school en­vi­ron­ment.

To­day’s ed­u­ca­tors gen­er­ally feel dis­em­pow­ered in their abil­ity to in­sti­tute dis­ci­pline in schools in the ab­sence of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

Pupils do not fear or re­spect ed­u­ca­tors be­cause they know that noth­ing will hap­pen to them.

Mak­ing it even more dif­fi­cult to main­tain dis­ci­pline in schools is the aware­ness by pupils that they have rights. And par­ents tend to side with their way­ward kids.

Hence there is an in­crease in phys­i­cal and ver­bal con­fronta­tions, theft, sub­stance abuse and tru­ancy.

Such bad be­hav­iour is im­pact­ing neg­a­tively on teach­ing and learn­ing in schools.

There is a Bi­b­li­cal say­ing that “who­ever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is dili­gent to dis­ci­pline him”.

Whether or not we take this as a man­date for phys­i­cal dis­ci­pline, we can cer­tainly un­der­stand it as a di­rec­tive to dili­gently dis­ci­pline our chil­dren.

A child who does not re­spect the au­thor­ity of his par­ents will never re­spect the au­thor­ity of teach­ers.

A child who goes un­pun­ished for do­ing wrong will not learn what is right.

There is a gi­ant chasm be­tween a mild spank­ing prop­erly ad­min­is­tered out of love and an out-of-con­trol adult vent­ing their emo­tions by phys­i­cally abus­ing a child.

What we want chil­dren to un­der­stand is that the gen­tle sting of a spank­ing is con­nected to the greater and of­ten longterm pain of harm­ful choices. Sim­ply put, pre­ven­tion is eas­ier than cure. Yo­gin Devan is a Me­dia

Con­sul­tant and So­cial Com­men­ta­tor. Share your com­ments with him on: yo­gind@meropa.co.za

Hand­ing out cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment can go a long way in teach­ing dis­ci­pline to kids.

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