We can … without corporal punishment

Atmaram Bhattarai & Praveen Kumar Yadav
Plan Nepal Sindhuli/Rautahat

Abstract

Cruel and humiliating forms of psychological punishment, gender-based violence and bullying remain a daily reality for millions of children in schools. Such different sorts of violence adversely affect quality education and create fearful learning environment violating the rights of children to learn in a safe school environment. The short article attempts to look back to the history of corporal punishment, moves further with the consequences and reasons for such punishments and finally concludes with alternative ways to create learn without fear environment. Overall, it appeals all the stakeholders to join hands to contribute Learn without Fear campaign launched globally with an aim to end violence against children in all schools.

Scenario of Corporal Punishment in Nepal

Corporal punishment in school has become a preferred measurable tool for making children disciplined. 57.77% of school going children in the world is potentially risk of receiving school corporal punishment. A study done by Plan Nepal in different 7 districts in 2011 shows that 39.34% of children realized punished corporally by the teachers. They also mentioned that 5.34% of total school droppers are because of the corporal punishment.

The above data makes some of us cringe while it is common for some.  No doubt, we were compelled to grow up in fearful learning environment in Nepalese context. The Learn with Fear concept or method has become a culture in teaching learning activities. We need to remove the culture with our collective efforts. The present article starts with some historical background of punishment given to the learners, goes ahead with the causes behind punishing the students followed by its effects and concludes with some alternative ways of teaching.

A look at the history

Our education system from traditional age is largely influenced by our religious books such as Vedas, Purans, Manusmriti, etc. According to Tulsikrit Ramayan, Ayodhyakand, one of Hindu religious books “भय बिनु प्रिति नहोई” (which means that there can be no love or motivation that leads to success without punishment/fear). But gone are the days when there was Gurukul Education and the teacher who was known as guru used to be powerful. Today, the traditional education has shifted to new generation and the power is misused by so called gurus. As a result, children are victimized due to excessive power exercised by the teachers.

In the Western world, such punishment was used for minor judicial and educational misconducts in the past. It was the most popular form of punishment until English philosopher John Locke stirred up some controversy with his paper, Some Thoughts Concerning Education around the late 1700s. In this paper, Locke explicitly criticised the manner in which corporal punishment was central to education. But it was as early as the 18th century that European countries banned corporal punishment; for example, Poland banned all forms of CP in 1783. Gradually, the practice of corporal punishment declined through 20th century globally to some extent. However, it is sad to note that corporal punishment is still prevalent in our schools of Nepal.

Why teachers beat the students in Nepal

Corporal punishment is given to the students in the following conditions or for the causes mentioned here:

  • When the students fail to submit their homework
  • When they make a noise in class room
  • Debate with the teacher in class room
  • When learners are found fighting with each other
  • If they come to school with no uniform
  • Lose / forget to bring copy, books and other stationeries
  • Cheat and hide others’ copy, book, pencil, etc
  • When they sleep in the classroom or show misconduct
  • When they are unable to answer correctly
  • If they receive poor marks in exam
  • When they leave some classes and run away
  • If a student is absent or does not attend the school regularly
  • If students speak unpleasant words
  • When they come to school late
  • They fail to pay school fee in time

What types of Corporal punishment is given in Nepalese Schools

  • Scolding, verbal abuse
  • Making the students sit in a discomfort position
  • Locking them in toilet/other room
  • Slapping a child by his/her own classmate
  • Making them stand for long time at side of the door, corner of room, on bench and ground
  • Pulling hairs and cheek
  • Twisting the ears
  • Hitting with the objects on any part of the body (like duster over the head)
  • Throwing some objects at child
  • Discrimination of equal participation because of caste group or gender
  • Hitting with stick on palm, back, head, legs, etc.
  • Preventing students from entering the classroom for a while
  • Squeezing a pen/pencil between the fingers
  • Pinching, Hanging, kicking
  • Making them lean against a tree and tying up with the rope
  • Threatening
  • Making the students run around the school premises or playground many times

What results when the teachers beat students (Consequences of Corporal Punishment)

  • Intellectual loss
  • Increased delinquency
  • School drop outs of children
  • Mentally / physically disabled
  • Nurture violence behavior
  • Lower self esteem / lose confidence/humiliation
  • Training for children to use physical violence
  • Liable to instill hostility
  • Rage without reducing undesired behavior
  • Associate with negative outcome
  • It does not only hamper the individual development but also disturbs/ruins the social harmony
  • Suicide /Death

Why corporal punishment is not the solution

Extensive research shows that corporal punishment does not achieve the desired end – a culture of learning and discipline in the classroom. Instead, violence begets violence. Children exposed to violence in their homes and at school tend to use violence to solve problems, both as children and adults. Key research findings show that corporal punishment:

  • Some learners blow their own horn about being beaten as something to be proud of, as a badge of bravery or success.
  • Undermines a caring relationship between learner and educator, which is critical for the development of all learners, particularly those with behavioural difficulties.
  • Undermines the self-esteem and confidence of children who have learning or behavioural problems and/or difficult home circumstances and contributes to negative feelings about school.
  • Does not build a culture of human rights, tolerance and respect.
  • Does not stop bad behaviour of difficult children. Instead, these children are punished over and over again for the same offenses.
  • Does not nurture self-discipline in children. Instead, it provokes aggression and feelings of revenge and leads to anti-social behaviour.
  • Does not make children feel responsible for their own actions. They worry about being caught, not about their personal responsibilities. This undermines the growth of self-discipline in children.
  • Takes children s focus away from the wrongdoing committed to the act of beating itself.

Why ban corporal punishment

Nepal is a one of the signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which compels it to pass laws and take social, educational and administrative measures to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.

By the result, banning corporal punishment is responded in School Sector Reform Program (SSRP-2009-14). The SSRP states that no child shall be subjected to physical punishment in any form in the school. Teacher and school found guilty of practicing corporal punishment shall both be subject to disciplinary actions that may include suspension of teacher’s grade and an official warning to the School Management Committee (SMC).

Similarly, Education Rule (sixth addendum), 2059 has added ‘no students should be physically and mentally violated’ under the teacher’s code of conduct. At the mean time, the ministry of education has approved a policy named ‘Policy Provision for Banning Corporal Punishment in Schools- 2011’.

Ministry of Education in the collaboration with the Department of Education, National Centre of Educational Development, Plan Nepal, Save the children and UNICEF launched Learn without Fear (LWF) Campaign in Nepal on 21st November 2008.  It is a campaign for preventing all forms of violence against children in schools. This includes corporal punishment, sexual abuse, neglect, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and bullying in schools.

So What?

CP crates fear among children. Where there is fear, there is no effective learning and the children can not construct their knowledge. The teacher should adopt alternative ways of CP. If teachers are to have a positive culture of learning and teaching in their schools, the learning environment must be safe, orderly and conducive to learning. There should be close relationship among teacher and children. The children should be loved and affected.

There are also those teachers who believe that corporal punishment is wrong, but they don’t always know what to use instead of physical force or the threat of it to maintain discipline and a culture of learning in the classroom. Discipline is a part of the daily life of students and teachers, but it is not a simple issue; it demands a great deal of time, creativity, commitment and resources.

A classroom climate based on mutual respect within which learners feel safe and affirmed will decrease the need for disciplinary action. By implementing a proactive approach, teachers can put things in place, which will safeguard the culture of learning, and teaching in their classrooms. Simple things like preparing for lessons; exercising self-discipline; having extension work available; ensuring that teaching and learning happen consistently; ensuring that learners are stimulated; establishing class rules with the students; making a space for time out or a conflict resolution corner; affirming students; building positive relationships with children; preparing and implementing job chart are all strategies which will set the stage for a positive learning environment and can significantly reduce problems with discipline in the classroom.

Similarly, the other alternatives ways of CP for a positive culture of learning and teaching are:

  • Providing disciplinary actions for misconduct inside the classroom: Carried out by class teacher; Verbal warnings; Community service; Additional work which is constructive and which possibly relates to the misconduct; Small menial tasks like tidying up the classroom; Detention in which learners use their time constructively but within the confines of the classroom i.e. they cannot participate in extra-mural activities or go home.
  • Adopting a whole school approach and making sure that the classroom discipline reflects the school’s policies.
  • Establishing class rules by the learners in the participatory way; be serious and consistent for implementing class rules.
  • Building a relationship of trust in which learners feel respected, understood and recognized for who they are.
  • Managing the learning process and the learning environment enthusiastically and professionally.
  • Being inclusive by using materials, pictures, language, music, posters, magazines and so on that reflect the diversity of the class so that no children feels left out or that his or her identity is not valued.
  • Giving students the opportunity to succeed.
  • Allowing children to take responsibility.
  • Giving attention seekers what they want.
  • Adopting strategies for behavioural modification like setting expectations, positive reinforcement, consistent consequences, presenting role model, etc.
  • Preparing and implementing code of conduct in school

Conclusion 

We observe that ‘pounding an animal is cruel; pounding an adult is crime and against human behaviour whereas pounding a child is a corrective measure for their proper adjustment into the social and cultural norms that the children need to respect’. Sometimes, punishing a child is considered the ‘right’ of parents or teachers. Teachers who are unmotivated and poorly trained are more likely to resort to punitive and physically violent methods of control, but this is not always the case for all teachers. But, globally, the practice of corporal punishment in school is being rejected and promoted alternative non violent discipline method to facilitate children’s behaviour and learning activities. A total of 106 states of the world have already legally banned the practice of CP in schools and care institutions. Similarly, 24 countries of the globe have legally banned corporal punishment at home either. In a society like ours with a long history of violence and abuse of child rights, it is not easy to make the transition to peace, tolerance and respect for human rights at a pace. Schools have a vital role to play in this process of transformation by nurturing these fundamental values in children.

 Our Appeal to NELTA

Most of the English teachers of school level in Nepal are known and blamed as cruel teachers as they mostly punish children in the purpose of making them success. Most of them (mostly of lower grades) are not aware that English is not learnt with corporal punishment. English can be taught using love and affection to the children in the communicative way using the above alternatives. Therefore, it is our humble request to NELTA to adopt Learn without Campaign within the network to wash the blame of cruelty pasted on the forehead of English Teachers in Nepal.

What we can do is to prepare some posters for promoting ‘learn without fear campaign’ in collaboration with ministry of Education, Department of Education, Save The Children, Plan Nepal and UNICEF and disseminate among the teachers all over the country through our branches existed in more than 35 districts. This will prove a milestone to make the campaign a grand success.

References

Education Rule (sixth addendum), 2059

Learn Without Fear Campaign Plan (October 2008-2011), a core document

Policy Provision for Banning Corporal Punishment in Schools, 2011

School Sector Reform Program (SSRP), 2009-2015

Teaching without punishment, a training manual to teachers, NCED, 2063

http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/pdfs/SchoolsBriefing.pdf

4 comments

  • Uttam Gaulee

    I would like to commend the writer-duo for bringing this issue so nicely once again to the attention of NELTA community. It rings so true that corporal punishment is not a solution. I agree with the writers that it is the lack of training that makes teachers resort to corporal punishment. When I reflect back to the beginning years of my own teaching career, I remember resorting to corporal punishment when I was at my wits end. Children are themselves impulsive by nature, no matter where they are from. But the school settings used to have an environmental press on the teachers to carry sticks and make students “disciplined.” School administration often demanded silence in the classrooms because “noise” in one classroom would cause disturbance to the other. So you had to keep your students silent by any means, and your stick came handy—terrible! I remorse that. I think this issue needs a lot of discussion and understanding all aspects of education administration including the parents. Classrooms need to be designed in such a way that participatory activities in classrooms are encouraged (not the silence!). This is even more important when it comes to language classes such as English.
    Another important issue with Nepal, I believe, is that state of impunity is rampant. Yes, there are rules and regulations, but the observance, monitoring, and thus the effectiveness of such regulations has been weakened for long. Therefore corporal punishment in schools has co-existed along with those rules, which are never enforced. I strongly endorse the campaign that writers have suggested NELTA should implement in collaboration with other agencies. I think we should also begin to challenge and shun the teachers who resort to corporal punishment. Also, discussions about the issue should be included in parents associations for information and reporting of such issues to concerned authorities should be encouraged.
    I agree with the writers that “it demands a great deal of time, creativity, commitment, and resources” to get over the issue. Let me talk about the “time” factor here. I agree that sometimes it takes time to deal with some children. So take as much time as you need while using your creativity and resources. BUT I have no patience to see the big STOP for corporal punishment. The writers have made a great point in the article by giving the imagery of pounding the animal, adult, and then the child. We need to STOP it right away! We have no excuse of time in this respect. Corporal punishment is insane; STOP it right now! I wish I had come across such a poster 18 years ago!
    Finally, I couldn’t quite follow the writers’ idea of linking corporal punishment to gurukul tradition, which is the apostle of love, respect, life, and intellect. As I had understood, there was no corporal punishment and/or discrimination in the gurukul schools. I have never heard about any instances of the gurus inflicting their shishyas with corporal punishment. Rather, I believe they maintained discipline by love and astuteness. They were so knowledgeable that they were able to keep their shishyas fully engaged and disciplined. I don’t exactly know how. But the alternative ways the writers have presented in the article are excellent!

  • Uttam Gaulee

    Yes, We can … without corporal punishment!

  • A good post indeed! If someone is tense, angry, nervous or afraid, they cannot do the assigned task properly, moreover they will spoil it. When it comes to doing something career-making with devotion there must be great supports from each corner. So should the case of education be. But, there are lots of factors that affect teaching learning. In some cultures and at some ages, students are out of control, and we don’t have any basic infrastructural supports so that we can treat them properly. Perhaps, that’s the reason that teachers are unable to give up giving corporal punishments to students. Anyway, the punishment that affects teachers and students negatively must be nullified.

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