Often, the violence that children experience is from parents, believing themselves to love a child into obedience, but really introducing them to violence as a means of communication.
Many parents, who introduce their children to violence in this manner rely on religious text. A lot of parents give punishment to their children in the interest of proper upbringing. This punishment is often carried out in schools as well, and continues into adulthood, at kgotlas, when a person has gone against social morals, norms or laws.
Parents, as well as the society that aligns itself with such forms of punishment say they are desirous of a good upbringing of their children. The question is, whether this tyrannical method of upbringing is a factor in building a society as ill as ours.
In the Botswana Relationship Study 2018, it was revealed that of the men and women who were part of the study, over 90% of those who perpetrated gender-based violence (GBV) or intimate partner violence (IPV), or were victims and survivors of either or both, had experienced violence at some point in their childhood.
This is to say, there is undeniably a link between physically beating a child, and the way that the child engages with relationships with others. The scars left by childhood abuse, are often invisible to the naked eye, but cause trauma as a ripple effect into their adulthood.
In August 2018, at an education specialists in Botswana were tasked to decide on, or weigh in on the debate on corporal punishment. In unison, there was a resounding rejection of abolishing violences against children in schools, by teachers.
Evidence was produced that punishment of children in this physically invasive way, resulted in health concerns for the learners. In light of various policies and more significantly the regulations to the Children’s Act of Botswana, teachers found themselves in challenging circumstances, following such acts against the children.
The meeting however, decided that corporal punishment was in fact still an effective form of punishment, and did not need to be abolished.
It would seem we are a society drunk on authoritarian rule, and unhealthy power dynamics. There has to be a party, bent on expressing their authority and enforcing it over those, seemingly less powerful, it would appear for the cogs of our nation to keep rolling. As observed by Elmon M.
Tafa in an article titled Corporal Punishment: The Brutal face of Botswana’s authoritarian schools, “contrary to the teachers’ beliefs that caning is inherent in African culture,.. it is [in fact] a part of a historically embedded cycle of authoritarian coping strategies of teaching, from schools to colleges of education and back to schools, bequeathed to the country by colonialism.”
Caning is therefore another part of our education system that was left to us by the colonial legacy; and we, knowing only what we were told is right for us, continue to enforce something unAfrican, inflicting harm on others. It begs the question, where botho is placed in such considerations.
Central to violence in any form are inequality and discrimination, as well as a failure to acknowledge and ensure the dignity and autonomy of peoples’ bodies. It is a complete disregard of another individual’s personhood, reducing them to an object that has to be compelled to submission, through such oppressive means.
Last week, in a decision by the South African Constitutional Court, it was specifically recognized that corporal punishment could tear families apart. The decision, which has made corporal punishment illegal in South Africa, states that there are less restrictive means to achieve discipline. The decision equates corporal punishment to assault. Naturally, this decision was not welcomed with open arms by the country’s society.
There has been no similar case before the Botswana Courts, as at present. This is significant because it directly speaks to the socialisation of young people. Children often bear the brunt of the failures of their parents and the society they live in. Often, corporal punishment has imbedded itself into generations of brokenness, clothing itself in the name of discipline, guidance, direction and love.
What it really does, though, is that it hardens many against the gentleness that we should engage with, as fellow humans. This often grows in and with us, resulting in us becoming adults who do not know how to set boundaries without harming others; or as adults who do not know how to accept boundaries without wanting to shame those who have erected them.
It also results in adulthood failures to exercise respect when there are disagreements, or when our fury is sparked. One may go further to hypothesise that this is perhaps one of the many reasons why gendered violence and intimate partner violence prevail in our society – that we are unable to, without invading another’s physical or emotional space, communicate.
I wonder how many people would still be alive, and how many would be unbroken, if parents took the time to adequately communicate with their children, instead of physically harming them. Of course, it is difficult for many adults to accept this reality, because it would mean accepting the difficult truth, either that they were, themselves, abusive, or were abused.
However, this should not hold us back from trying to raise a generation that is free from violence. Violence is learnt. It is not an inborn or inherent human quality. It is therefore up to us, to erase it, for better future adults.