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School CP - April 2001

Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra, 3 April 2001


Reintroducing Caning In Our Schools?

The Central Regional Minister, Mr. Isaac Edumadze, is reported to have advocated for the reintroduction of caning in our schools as a way of checking the growing insubordination and indiscipline in schools.

The Chronicle identifies with the honourable minister's concern about the escalating cases of indiscipline and immorality in our schools in recent times and the need to adopt some measures to hold them in check.

However, we differ with the minister on his prescribed method for arresting the situation, namely, the reintroduction of caning in our schools.

As we argued a few weeks ago, each era comes up with its own methods of dealing with educational problems depending on the philosophy of education prevailing at the time, among other factors. The use of the cane and other forms of corporal punishment was based on the rather antiquated thinking that punishment, especially the severest form, facilitated learning among pupils.

Based on this thinking and supported with the biblical teaching that the folly of children could best be cured through whipping, the cane became an integral part of every school activity, both in and out of the classroom. In fact, it was not uncommon in those days for teachers to visit truant pupils in their homes and cane them there, right in front of the child's parents.

There were not many problems with this method of ensuring compliance with school rules and regulations because the society was almost unanimous in its acceptance, and teachers who spared the rod were often accused of spoiling the children.

What is more, those were the days when teachers, especially the headteachers, were elderly and disciplined persons who avoided excesses in whatever they did.

Later studies into educational issues revealed that caning was doing more harm than good to teaching and learning in schools. The physical pain inflicted on pupils strained the relationship between them and the teachers, making it impossible for the two main players in the school system to interact freely to ensure effective teaching and learning.

There are many people alive today who openly confess that they dropped out of school because of the excessive caning in the schools in those days.

The same society that had accepted caning without complaining later turned against it because of different prevailing societal thinking, especially the perception of corporal punishment as an infringement of an individual's fundamental human right.

There were several instances when some angry parents stormed school premises to attack and assault teachers who had caned their wards.

In fact, the Ghana Education Service in the mid-70s issued a directive that only school heads could use the cane as a form of punishment, when it became clear that the method was being abused by some teachers. There had been several reported cases of temperamental teachers even injuring some pupils with the cane.

It therefore came as no surprise when caning as a form of punishment gradually phased out of the school system.

As we indicated earlier, we agree with the Central Regional minister that something has to be done about the growing indiscipline among school pupils and students these days.It is his approach that we disagree with.

Man is a creative being endowed with the ability to find suitable solutions to problems at every time. There is no guarantee that the method that worked for one generation will work similar magic years later. That is why caning received stiff opposition from both parents and pupils in later years.

These days instead of caning pupils to encourage them to stick to their books and be punctual in school, educationists are advised to devise appropriate methodologies to make their lessons and the general school environment interesting and attractive to bait the pupils.

What is more, other forms of punishment should be devised, depending on the environment in place of caning which leads to strained relations between the teacher and his pupils, who should cooperate to ensure effective teaching and learning.

If there is growing indiscipline and waywardness in schools today, studies should be conducted into the causes and scientific methods of eradicating them proffered, instead of returning to some method that worked during the middle ages.

Copyright 2001 Ghanaian Chronicle.

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Colin Farrell
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