Author Samuel Sankpo
Caning is one of the many physical forces practised in our schools by educators and school staff, or in the home, by parents, guardians, and family members as a means of discipline or punishment. Many argue that it implants discipline, ignoring the body pain or discomfort, and the psychological and emotional trauma it causes children.
The practice seems to be accepted by most Ghanaians among children, adults, the educated, and not educated. UNICEF (2010) confirmed the general acceptance of the act with an assertion that vicious punishment in Ghana is culturally ingrained. In fact, human rights activists and other caretakers who advocate against the use of this option as a corrective measure are often perceived as being “child spoilers” and people killing morality in Ghanaian society. Some go further to cite religious sources to justify their arguments. A common verse is Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him”. By quoting this verse implies that discipline can only be inculcated in children by using the cane as a teaching tool to make them behave according to expectations and norms.
The Ghana Education Service (GES) in 2017 officially banned all forms of corporal punishment for children in schools in Ghana as part of efforts aimed at promoting a safe and protective learning environment for children (GES, 2019). However, it is doubtful to note whether the law that consents to corporal punishment has been repelled. For example, Article 13(2) of the 1998 Children’s Act, Ghana’s most comprehensive act concerning the treatment of children allows “justifiable” and “reasonable” corporal punishment of a child (UNICEF, 2018). The continual existence of this law makes GES directive empty and ineffective simply because a breach of the ban may not lead to a conviction. But the question remains: is whipping the only alternative to instill moral fiber?
A recent SHS students’ indiscipline behaviour towards the first gentleman in our land stirred up public squabbles again on the corollaries of teaching and learning, devoid of canning children on various media outlets and social media platforms. Some people think caning should be reintroduced in our schools to inculcate order.
Educators have acknowledged that teaching and learning cannot be successful without someone being in control (Rosen, 1997 cited in Agbenyega, 2006). But being in control does not mean being a warden at a prison, it means maintaining order and discipline’ (Agbenyega, 2006).
The United States Department of Education has recognised that:
”Maintaining a disciplined environment conducive to learning does not necessarily mean adopting tough policies to keep students silent in their seats. …Most important, a learning environment requires an ethic of caring that shapes staff-student relationships” (Rosen, 1997 cited in Agbenyega, 2006).
This implies that punishment of students is not synonymous with discipline although the two have been tied together (Agbenyega, 2006). Whereas punishment is associated with forceful suffering or deprivation, discipline deals with teaching and self-control.
Studies suggest that corporal punishment, which includes caning, is injurious to children’s development, causing negative outcomes that vary depending on the particular nature, extent, and severity of exposure (UNICEF, 2018). Other investigators assert that schools using punishment practises promote more anti-social behaviour and have a tendency to increase rates of vandalism, aggression, truancy, and ultimately school dropouts than those with a firm but fair disciplinary system (Mayer, 1995).
In a nutshell, teachers who employ corporal punishment in their line of duties should consider more over the hazards brought by corporal punishment on students. I am also of the view that the reintroduction of corporal punishment will erode the gains and accolades we have accumulated through inclusive education over the years.
.Teachers should note their role as facilitators leading students toward self-discipline.
. Disciplinary measures should be used to encourage students to make smart choices and develop positive behaviour rather than deliberately inflicting pain or unpleasantness.
Awareness should be created at all levels to erase the perception that discipline is only about caning