How to Stop Corporal Punishment?

Published On: April 10, 2023 09:00 AM NPT By: Rajeeb Shrestha

Since discipline is an ongoing process, we the adults as teachers, instructors, parents or guardians should be aware of the fact that our children are disciplined not through the process of hurting but through positive methods.

It would be surprising to know the fact that the form of corporal punishment (physical punishment), especially for the students of schools was developed in the developed countries such as England, Soviet Union and America. A few months ago, the teachers of various private schools and community schools of Lalitpur were given an orientation at Anal Jyoti School, Satdobato where there was a session on the same. The presentation on avoiding corporal punishment by Mr Raj Kumar Baral was really significant and it has made all the participants understand how they can handle the class without punishing the students in any form.

According to the presenter, Mr Baral, the educational scholar, corporal punishment is the product of mass education in the Developed World. Since the term Corporal has been derived from the Latin word corporus (i.e. bodily), it can thus be understood as bodily punishment as a consequence to students' unwanted activities. It has its roots in modern education in developed countries related to religion in the 19th and 20th century. Baral asserts that 'it is mainly the product of Modern and Mass Education beliefs based on traditional religion."

There have been a lot of arguments regarding whether or not bodily punishment is necessary. If we try to seek for its broader definition, then the group of medical pediatrics, psychological communities and human rightists define corporal punishment to be a larger entity having its adverse impacts such as poor academic achievements, asocial behaviors, injury to students, and an unfriendly learning environment. In a recent research made by the group of pediatrics in the journal of Nepal Pediatric Society, it is mentioned that corporal punishment has been considered necessary for the upbringing of children, facilitating learning and implanting discipline in children in our country. But the researchers affirm that this cruel culture including various other physical abuse to children not only in the schools but also in society in general, such as sexual abuse to school going children is indeed undignified and totally inhuman act. So, we can reckon that corporal punishment is not only physical forfeit but it can remain in the forms of sexual, verbal and mental torture.

1.     Although physical punishment has been invalidated in many countries across the globe, it is still existing in different forms in many states including the USA, Russia, North Korea, China and some other Asian nations. In the context of our country, Nepal is the first South Asian country and 54th in the world to completely restrict such punishment. Nepal's constitution, section7 (5) Act clearly declares that "each child has a right to be protected against all types of physical and mental violence or punishment, neglect, inhumane behavior, discrimination, sexual harassment, and exploitation in any form by his/her parents, other family members, teachers or anyone else". Yet, we often see the headlines and hear serious news of severe punishment being given to children. According to a UNICEF report prepared in 2019, nearly 80 percent of Nepali children aged from one to fourteen, undergo the violence discipline. Most of them experience such violence discipline from their parents, teachers and caregivers. Pointing out to the ear raising figures, the UNICEF report further states that among 50 percent of children who are entitled to general physical punishment, around 14 percent cope with much severe forms of such punishment resulting the cycle of physical punishment going on because the same children when grow up and become the parents, they tend to behave with their wards in violent ways too. It also has other negative outcomes such as behavioral pattern disorders, anxiety and depression and learning incapacity.

It is useless to talk about how and what types of severe physical punishment the children are going through in their daily lives since all of us have witnessed it one or some other day in the news. Rather, it would be appropriate to discuss how all the concerned bodies can prevent corporal punishment in homes, schools or society itself. APJ Abdul Kalam, once wrote in his essay that the schooling of a child should be based on a triangular basis. The relationship between a child, his school and teachers should always be in connection for a holistic development of a child. In the context of our societies, most parents have the concept that once their ward is admitted to a school, then the teachers should be responsible for everything since they think that schooling is not merely a learning process of a particular curriculum from a particular school. In reality, schooling of a child begins from his/ her own home and the mother is their first teacher. The lessons related to disciplinary codes, morality, etiquette manners, social values and importance of family bonding can't be imparted by teachers at schools. On the other hand, school administrators, educationists and principals should also train their teaching and non teaching staff at least once a year about new methodologies, pragmatic practices and mechanisms about understanding children's mindset from different backgrounds. They must be oriented about handling even a most difficult child and bringing him to proper counseling.

Actually, a child becomes problematic when he/she displays the unbearable mischievous behaviors in a class or school premises. Many children are becoming quite aggressive nowadays because of domestic violence they face at their homes. Not only because of this reason do they lack passion and discipline since children these days are not exposed to outdoor sports but they keep on playing online video games that contain violence all the time. A psychologist at Neo clinic, Naxal, Kathmandu informs this scribe that he has a child having a feat of aggression due to overplaying of online video games. While pondering all these factors, we can clearly see that the situation of punishing a child becomes uncontrollable sometimes in schools. Thus, the teaching job has become a most challenging job nowadays.

If we return to the topic and presentation of Mr. Baral, then corporal punishment, even yelling at a child for speaking a foul or offensive word, is apprehensible. Therefore, at the practical level, whenever, the condition appears of punishment, then the teachers and student's welfare officer should possess the knowledge of effective communication, attitude of respecting students and their basic rights, trying to use classroom instructions that are proper to student's abilities, involving students and parents in making decisions in the context of following school rules and regulations and facilitating a problematic child to understand his own problems through psychologist counselors or self counseling. In order to have these traits, the school administration must provide orientation to the staff concerned before the beginning of every new session. Such practices are seen being implemented in most of the private schools in Nepal but some community schools, government schools and small sized local schools still are in the condition of too little too late.

Before wrapping up this write-up, we can assume that it is high time to prevent corporal punishment at schools. But, there are many hurdles that need to be crossed by the stakeholders in order to create a punishment-free environment in schools as well as societies. For this, the government, the education policy makers and all the related ones should bring upon the new practices of pedagogical strategies such as the practice of 'Restorative Justice' which has become relatively effective in South Africa. It involves the victim and the offender in a meeting which is held to discover a plan to recover any harm being caused. At the same time, people involved in it also make plans to prevent future misbehaviors. Beside this technique, other modern day practices of teaching-learning process without corporal punishment such as learning by doing, using 'good' words to describe children, being respectful, negotiating a compromise, being realistic or leading by examples could be some alternatives to replace punishment. Moreover, any parent, guardian, teacher or anyone else who is about to punish a child for whatsoever reason, once must reflect upon the fact that their action may cause the concerned child a huge confusion resulting in a stoppage of his developing potential and a tremendous psychological trauma. Since discipline is an ongoing process, we the adults as teachers, instructors, parents or guardians should be aware of the fact that our children are disciplined not through the process of hurting but through positive methods. 

Anyway, let's say a big "NO" to corporal punishment.

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