Is it appropriate to administer corporal punishment in schools?

Students in Class
Students in Class

The concept of corporal punishment Corporal punishment is meant to correct or control the child’s behaviour by making a child to experience pain, without injury, through the use of physical force (Donnelly & Straus, 2013). The need to correct or control children’s behaviour stems from the fact that each country, community, or educational institution has its own set of behaviours that are acceptable or normal. Acceptable behaviour in students is important in running any learning institution effectively. Some of the effects deviant students can bring to a learning institution include; poor academic grades, feelings of insecurity among other students and teachers and vandalism.

Different views regarding corporal punishment  

The use of corporal punishment on children has long standing history world-wide. While some people still believe in the literal ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ principle, others clearly stand against this type of punishment. Okoth (2014) reported that in Kenya students’ deviant behaviour became prevalent after corporal punishment was banned from schools in that country.

The implication here is that Okoth supports the use of corporal punishment as a means of correcting children’s behaviour in schools.

(Lawrence, 2007) on the other hand views corporal punishment as a form of child abuse that has long been posing a serious problem in America. In Botswana, some parents believe corporal punishment is child abuse (Garegae, 2007). Our Education Act (1967) stipulates that only the school head shall administer corporal punishment to students.

It further explains that for a teacher to administer corporal punishment to a student, the school head must have delegated the concerned teacher to do so. The act implies that corporal punishment should not be seen as an immediate form of intervention to correct students’ behaviour in schools. Whether this route is practical or not is a topic of discussion for another time.


Why do students misbehave?

Even though some scholars believe that students can develop deviant behaviours because of chemical imbalances in their brains, a lot of studies have pinned down students’ unacceptable behaviour on social factors. (Lawrence, 2007) acknowledges that juvenile delinquency is a serious problem in American schools and attributes this to the fact that a high proportion of deviant students in America are born from parents who are disengaged, negligent and abusive. In South Africa students’ substance abuse is reported to be a leading form of deviant behaviour among students (Tlale & Dreyer, 2013). They cited challenges such as unstable homes, fighting between parents, violence and crime as some of the leading causes of substance abuse among students.  In Botswana substance abuse by students is reported to be the second largest problem in the country after HIV/AIDS (Daily News, May 20, 2014). The other prevalent type of deviant behaviour in the country is bullying in schools by students. Studies show that lack of parental guidance, restrictive rules on administration of corporal punishment are some of the reasons cited by teachers for students’ indiscipline in Botswana schools (Garegae, 2007).

What comes out clearly from all the above mentioned studies is that deviant students are largely failed by their parents. Parents clearly play a key role in helping their children grow and mature into responsible adults, through a healthy normal child development.

Parents have always been blamed or praised for their child’s behaviour despite the fact that the child may be acting out behaviour learned from peers or TV. That explains why the senior citizens in our society have a tendency of asking questions such as ko gae ke kae? Otswa ko goora mang?, which means where are you originally from? And who are your parents? When they meet you for the first time. Culturally, the behaviour of any human being is used to judge the parenting style and behaviour of their parents. There are some Setswana proverbs to explain such judgements. 


Is it appropriate to administer

corporal punishment in our schools?

Our collective African culture of extended families and kingship assumes that every child grows up in an environment where parental love and guidance are abundant. Parents in the African context, extends beyond biological parents. It encompasses any elder who cares to guide a child.

Traditionally, corporal punishment was an appropriate and effective way of correcting a child because a child knew exactly what was expected of him or her.

The communal African way of living ensured that all the basic needs of each child were provided for, hence there was little or no reason to act in deviant ways. Currently, changes in family, parental and societal roles have impacted negatively on the quality of children as well as family lives. Children are no longer given sufficient parental guidance and the attention they deserve.

Research shows that when children do not automatically get guidance and attention from home, they learn to get them in more aggressive and deviant ways because that is what works best for them.

Unfortunately, they extend their deviant behaviour to school settings because they still need to fill in their emotional needs. Teachers, on the other hand, need students who are focused and organized so that they can work effectively within the time they have available at their disposal.

Corporal punishment comes as a quick short term intervention for teachers to stop deviant students from disrupting the class. However, I personally don’t believe corporal punishment is still an appropriate long-term way of correcting most of the deviant students, especially those who grew up in homes where drinking, smoking and promiscuity are accepted on children.

* Victoria Seiketso Sethibe

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