Corporal Punishment: The Battle Rages

Published on 4th August 2008

The debate on whether corporal punishment should be reintroduced in Kenyan schools as a panacea to curb the spate of student's unrest shows our leaders’ relish for simplistic solutions and quick fix approaches to complex problems.
Embracing the biblical adage: "spare a rod spoil a child' without considering who was being addressed and in what context, also betrays this lot further for gross misunderstanding of issues at hand. On careful consideration of the scripture, one realizes that the message was an exhortation of King Solomon to parents. Some parents’ negligence aside, you can never compare a parent's use of cane on a child to some stranger.
Proponents of the cane are either individuals who went to school in the era it was believed that "an African child can't understand anything without a cane" or those who claim they are better because they were caned. Why should we mete out cruelty on our children based on unscientific and misguided thinking?  
Does it ever cross our mind that teachers could abuse the use of the cane?  Why aren't we in the same breath talking about the guidelines on use of the cane?  I remember during my days in school, we would be caned for mistakes not committed by us such as lack of school fees, torn uniform or even poor exam performance. Considering that these reasons are poverty related, children paid for the poor background by many strokes of the cane. Why do our teachers want a teacher-student relationship akin to prison-warders and prisoners?
If corporal punishment has failed to bring about character reform amongst prisoners, why would we expect that it would be any different in our schools?  
In my considered opinion, for all the “goods” of caning that are extolled by its proponents, there is absolutely no mitigation of the cruelty and degradation that it entails. In fact, if the rule of cause and effect was to be applied, since parents are in charge of their children’s discipline, parents should first be caned before we proceed to caning the students.

I am personally not aware that caning in school made any difference in my life.  I am for appropriate guidance and counseling, improved communication channels at schools, dialogue in conflict resolution with our children and for parent's improved involvement in children's life at home and at school.
By George Nyongesa,
Bunge la Mwananchi

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