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School CP - May 2004
Mmegi, Gaborone, 19 May 2004
Parents order whipping of Masunga SSS students
By Alice Banda
MASUNGA: Form five male students at Masunga Senior Secondary School were yesterday given five lashes each for issuing threats. The students were whipped following a decision by parents after an urgent meeting called by the headmaster.
The headmaster had reported a case of threats after notes were put up on the notice board at the school in the past week. Apparently the threats were triggered by the death of a 19-year-old form five student who committed suicide after a fight at the school.
According to Masunga Police Station Commander, Hendrick Mmipi, the deceased had earlier engaged in a fight with a form four student over a plate. "The deceased had borrowed a plate from the junior and had not returned it. So when it was demanded by the owner, a fight broke out," Mmipi explained. He said the teachers separated the two but the deceased still remained aggressive. "He was told to go and bring his parents, but he never went back to the school as he committed suicide in his parent's home in Mbalambi using an electric wire," said Mmipi.
The students blamed the headmaster for the death saying the decision to send him home was not fair, Mmipi said, adding that the students wrote the first note and placed it on the supplies block adjacent to the administration. "They threatened to strike and said no teacher would move as they were going to hurt them. One of the notes read thus: 'Attention: don't think we are silent, we want him back. No school today'." On discovering the notes, the headmaster immediately sent teachers to search the students hostels' where they found offensive objects. "They found screw drivers, knives and broomsticks. The headmaster sent them to call their parents. They were displeased with their children's behaviour and the decision was taken. They settled to have each one of them lashed five strokes," Mmipi said. He backed the parent's conclusion saying: "I think it was a wise step. It won't make matters worse because some students were even begging for leniency. I don't believe in suspending children, it demoralises them. But they will just be beaten and go ahead with classes," he said.© Mmegi, 2002
Mmegi, Gaborone, 21 May 2004
Administer corporal punishment with consideration
I read the article about Masunga Senior Secondary School students being whipped for threatening behaviour (Wednesday 19 May 2004) with a measure of amusement.Delinquency in schools needs to be nipped in the bud, and corporal punishment should, in theory, be an effective way of curbing acts such as those that occurred at Masunga SSS.
However, in reality, discipline in our schools is nothing short of a farce. Corporal punishment is not reserved for serious or unruly behaviour in schools, but is administered liberally and arbitrarily from Standard One to Form Five. Students are beaten for failing tests, for forgetting books, for copying notes wrongly, for coming late (despite the fact that some have to walk from the lands every day to school), a whole class is beaten for the mistakes of a few, the list of "crimes" punishable by corporal punishment is seemingly endless.
Students regard the cane as an inevitable part of their school experience, no matter how hard they work or how well they perform, they are going to get it. This leaves many delinquents indifferent to corporal punishment. Those at Masunga SSS got five lashes. So what? Students are regularly given four lashes on the buttocks for failing to reach a certain academic standard.
Not long ago, the government supposedly gave headmasters new powers to "administer corporal punishment, suspend and expel" unruly students. Laughable, considering that for many decades, corporal punishment has been administered by all and sundry in the school management.
The Ministry of Education has strict guidelines for the use of corporal punishment through the Education Act (1967), but teachers seem to be more in breach than in observance. The Act is now under review, and I wonder if any steps will be taken to ensure that corporal punishment is administered for the right reasons, namely serious offences such as threatening behaviour, fighting, and alcohol consumption. If not, students will never take school discipline seriously, and juvenile delinquency will rise.
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