‘Six of the best’ can do wonders for kids
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Handing out corporal punishment can go a long way in teaching discipline to kids.