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School CP - February 2013

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The Star Online (web only), Kuala Lumpur, 28 February 2013

Caning still needed to discipline students in school, says STU chief

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KUCHING: Caning is still necessary in schools to get students to realise their folly but it must never be used to the extent of causing trauma and hurt.

Sarawak Teachers Union (STU) president William Ghani Bina said though he would never subscribe to disciplining by instilling fear, the cane's purpose was actually to help keep students on good behaviour.

"People these days look at caning as a horrifying punishment in schools but they are unaware that there is a provision on caning set by the Education Ministry.

"Caning should be done if the student has committed a serious wrongdoing like getting into a physical fight or something. Nevertheless, they are not to be caned until they get hurt or bruises over their body," he told The Star yesterday.

He said the provision clearly stated that only the headmaster could cane students and if a teacher or another senior school figure were to do it, they would need an authorisation letter from the headmaster or principal first.

He said it was also clearly stated in the provision that female students were not to be caned at all but be given other forms of punishment like cleaning the toilets, picking up litter around the school or sweeping.

"Girls are not even allowed to be asked to cut grass as punishment," he said.

Ghani said though caning was allowed on male students, the punishment should never be too harsh and heavy until it left a bad bruise.

Also, the pupil must be caned only on their palms or buttocks with their pants on.

Ghani explained that for a headmaster to resort to caning, the misdeed must be a serious one like fighting or bullying.

This too, he said, would require the parents to come to school and watch the punishment being meted out.

"It is the only way to make the students realise the wrong they have committed. It is also indirectly to get their parents' attention on what their child had been doing in school," he said.

He said all punishments would be recorded and a report would be sent to the Education Ministry to be kept for record purposes.

"This is why I always tell my students that don't think you get good grades, you can be as indiscipline as you want. Such is because the punishments you receive will be in your records and this would not be good for your career if the company or agency hiring you does a background check.

"These records are also kept to protect the school against any lawsuits," he said.

Ghani said in those days when a student got punished or caned, his or her parents would side the teachers and the student would receive even further scolding at home.

However, he said times had changed and there had been instances whereby angry parents would storm into schools, belittle and threaten the teacher for scolding their children.

He reminded that a teacher's job was not only centred around teaching a child to read and write but also to discipline them and teach them right from wrong.

"But there are some parents who feel otherwise and that nobody should scold or let alone cane their children. If this trend is rising, there will come a day when teachers would just teach and not care about disciplining their students.

"They would not be bothered if the students chose to talk in class and not paid attention. For any serious misdeed, they would just leave it up to the police to handle. Do we want our schools to come to that level?" he asked.

Ghani said it took two to tango when it came to disciplining a child and this involved both the schools and parents.

He said a student would normally spend only around six hours in school and the rest at home, and so it was imperative that the parents paid as much attention to their children's activity.

He said it did not help to act only when something major had gone wrong.

"If the parent cannot discipline their child at home, what makes them think it is possible for a teacher to discipline 45 students under an hour per lesson? There are times when the school would call the parents to come and collect their children's report card only to be told off by these parents that the school was only making things difficult for them."

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