Friday, August 3, 2007

Violent strikes in schools a result of no punishment for students

I wonder why no one has failed to correlate the emergency of violent strikes in schools and the abolition of corporal punishments. The Ministry of Education and sports abolished corporal punishments in schools on June 16th 1997. This decision was not preceded by a scientific study rather it was due to biased and well-funded efforts of the anti-God, Atheistic, pro-homosexual organization called the International humanist and Ethical Union. A simple google search will show them bragging of how they succeeded in duping Uganda to ban any form of discipline which inflicted pain from our Schools.

From several conversations I have had with ministry of Education starting with Fagil Mandy, and Ministers of education, I have never received a well-founded reason for the disempowerment of the teachers by removing of discipline and punishment in cases of violations of school guidelines and rules. Many of us who were punished in school by caning were taught discipline instilled through reasonable fear of pain. In its absence, we have now reached a place where students don’t care about the words of teachers, and are very violent to an extent that the police now have to settle these cases.

This trend of violent education environment is common in countries where corporal punishment is removed. Case in point is the many public schools in United States where teachers are even afraid for their safety from out of control students! No amount of psychologists, counseling and Ritalin has been able to control this.

The big publicity of abuses of corporal punishment was used to dupe the educationalist. No study was done on the negative effects of removing this discipline, which was useful in ensuring compliance to the school guidelines. When the director of education Dr. John Mbabazi on August 7, 2006, directed schools to review their respective rules and introduce "more professional and acceptable sanctions to replace manual labor and caning" he did not really empower teachers with another effective method to deal with discipline in schools. So teachers are now simply dogs, which bark but cannot bite. Students now routinely callously break the rules; smoke in teachers faces knowing that teachers cannot really do anything about it.

These guidelines have also created a climate of fear to the teachers. Mbabazi warned teachers "Where these guidelines are ignored, the culprits (teachers) will be held criminally responsible for their actions. They will have to face the laws including the teacher's Code of Conduct. Since then several teachers have been arrested and are now in jail for daring to instill discipline in the students. No wonder now that we are having these violent strikes.

In Botswana they had banned corporal punishments for several years but had to legally re-introduce it back in schools after realizing that its removal resulted in very costly and dangerous violence in schools. In January 2004 Gojwane residents in the central district welcomed the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools to curb outward behavior. Instead of altogether throwing out the baby with the birth water, Botswana ministry of education issued guidelines to ensure that caning does not result in abuse. "Caning should be 'moderate and reasonable and shall be administered only on the palm of the hand or across the buttocks with a light cane not more than a meter long and at the thickest end, not more than a centimeter in diameter."

In addition to remove sexually motivated caning, they said, "No male teacher except the school head shall inflict corporal punishment upon a female student. The punishment were to be recorded in a register and every entry in the register shall be signed by the person who administered it and the person who witnessed it." Botswana's policy makers gave guidelines ensuring that caning is not excessive or abused to the extent of impinging on the dignity of the child.

No wonder the schools that have caning in Uganda have always done better both academically and in terms of discipline than those without caning. Instead of wondering if we need more communication, or putting children in decision-making places, a good place to start is for policy makers in the ministry of education to institute a rigorous and scientific study in the relationship between the removal of caning in schools and the sudden rise in school violence in the same time. Perhaps we may have to swallow our pride and say that we were mistaken by the questionable intentions of the human ethicists and go back to what we know works in Africa. "It takes a village to raise a child".

Dr. Martin Ssempa.
The write is a doctor of public health and service. He is a pastor, broadcaster and mentor of young people

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