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School CP - November 2005

Corpun file 16985


Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra, 24 November 2005

Social Justice

Caning in the Classroom

Is it time to "switch"?

By Lisa Weighton


"Some teachers are too strict" when they implement disciplinary measures in the classroom, said Benjamin O. Offei, a 19-year-old student who recently completed his final examinations at West Africa Senior Secondary School.

Throughout his career as a student in both public and private institutions, Benjamin experienced corporal punishment used by instructors in the classroom.

According to Susan Kennedy, Director of the Special Education Division of the Ghana Education Service (GES), corporal punishment in the classroom is being phased out.

When caning is implemented, she said, it is regulated by GES, and not left solely to teachers' own discretion as was common in the past.

Teachers in Ghana are required to follow the GES code of conduct when they use corporal punishment in the classroom, Kennedy said. Under these rules, no more than six lashes should ever be administered, and each case must be recorded.

Teachers must be ready to justify the caning, and call on the headmaster to implement the punishment.

Alternatively, Kennedy said, teachers are permitted to cane students if they "do it under the supervision of the headmaster."

Benjamin explained each school has rules and guidelines students are expected to follow. Students are aware of the rules, he said, and are also aware of the penalties for breaking them. For example, caning is often the consequence for missing classes without an excuse.

A group of primary school children in Roman Ridge said they also often experienced corporal punishment in their classrooms, saying they would be switched on their bottoms if they were caught cheating.

Junior, a seven year old, said his teacher would beat students if they were caught fighting amongst themselves, ultimately enforcing non-violence with violence.

According to Benjamin, teachers' expectations remain relatively consistent in both private and public schools, although the way teachers deal with disobedient students can vary.

The penalty depends on the offense, but Ben revealed that caning in public school classrooms is not uncommon.

If a student acts out of order or is disrespectful, sometimes the teacher will speak with that child's parents to resolve the issue. In other cases, Benjamin said, students would be given a cutlass and a hoe and made to clear a section of land of grass and weeds.

There is no time allotment for this punishment and instead depends on the length and density of the brush, Benjamin explained.

Other times students would be flogged either on the hands or buttocks, he said.


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