Recently, I was sharing with my children a rather funny Facebook update on a friend’s wall about how Yoruba mothers are expertly making use of corporal punishment to shape the lives of their children. One of my sons suddenly started lamenting how some of their teachers are stylishly using the practice on them, despite being totally outlawed at the school and even in all schools in Qatar.
Then, my other son joined his brother by explaining that if you are found to be distracting the class, the teachers’ modus operandi for melting out their punishments range from a sudden slap on the back to a pull at your ear and a ruler thrashing on the back of your hand. I found their revelations, which seemed negligible, somehow disturbing and I was keen to raise the issue with the school during the next Parents-Teachers meeting.
After we stopped talking, then I went into some sort of sudden trance, which brought back the memories of those days when corporal punishment was explicitly in use during my junior and high school days in Nigeria.
I then recounted to my children how two of my high school teachers Mr O and Mr H were feared by all the students, especially the errant and late-comers, because of their zeal for beating students.
These particular teachers incidentally happened to be our religious studies teachers; one teaching Islam and the other Christianity (I wouldn’t know whether that had a part in their fierceness because we never got the chance to find out). They were both very aggressive and very perfect at discharging lashes in hot salvo.
You automatically become their prey anytime you are late to school. On sighting both the frightful ‘masquerades’ at the gate on any such morning, you knew you were done for because whoever must enter the school compound would have to accept their canes (I’ve had to run back home on some occasions due to fear). If I had no chance of running away, I would immediately start to cry, so much so that my school uniform’s collars would become soaked with tear drops and I would be shaking as if I was being led to the gallows. I feared being lashed that much because my parents never seriously beat me as such. Aside my mother’s occasional spanking for failure to either fetch water or do the dishes, I can only recollect my father’s once in a lifetime thrashing for turning myself into a glutton after cooking and gobbling up a whole lot of fresh corns meant for the whole family!
At the school gate, we would usually queue up to get our judgement from either of the two warriors by way of whipping and most times I’d come last as I would keep postponing my ‘evil day’ by continuously running back a few yards to the end of the line until it would remain just me and could got canned by both of them and more hotly too. On such days, boys and girls would go home with legible marks on their arms and legs made by the super staunch bamboo canes.
Those days were horrible despite Nigeria being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) since 1990. Even today, the practice of corporal punishment is still in vogue in some schools and among many families across different states in Nigeria.
Article 19 of UNCRC says: “State parties shall take all legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child”.
Corporal punishment is a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offense, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable. The term usually refers to methodically striking the offender with the open hand or with an implement, whether in judicial, domestic, or educational settings.
Effects of Corporal Punishment on children themselves, parents and society, have been clearly spelt out in a document by Unicef’s Save the Children under its “Educate don’t Punish” campaign and I thought it worth giving a read. It says corporal punishment lowers children’s self-esteem, teaches them poor self-control and promotes negative expectations of themselves. The document also says the use of corporal punishment increases the probability that parents will show aggressive behaviour in the future with growing frequency and intensity and also in other contexts.
More effects can be read here http://www.unicef.org/barbados/spmapping/Implementation/CP/Global/Educate_donthit_SaveManual.pdf
What is your experience?