Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Academia, BONELA up in arms over corporal punishment

The vexing issue of corporal punishment in schools has come to the fore once again.

A video of a male teacher lashing a female student has gone viral after garnering criticism from academia and The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), citing that corporal punishment has now turned violent in Botswana.

A statement by BONELA has censured the incident in which a teacher at Sir Seretse Khama Memorial Junior Secondary School instructed a female student to lay prostrate on a rough surface whilst donning a white school shirt to receive corporal punishment.

The ethics network in the statement said the birching violated Article 2 of the Education (Corporal Punishment) Regulations of 1968.

“Article 2 of the Education (Corporal Punishment) Regulation 1968 states: no male teacher may inflict corporal punishment upon any girl whom he has grounds for believing is over the age of ten years,” BONELA said. The network thus called for disciplinary action to be taken by the Ministry of Basic Education against the male teacher who was administering corporal punishment on the female student.

BONELA condemned not only the teacher that was administering corporal punishment to the student but also the teachers that were heard using abusive language aimed at the student in the video.

The non-governmental organisation (NGO) further stated that corporal punishment is a cruel and degrading form of violence against children, and teachers, parents, caregivers and adults in the community are among the leading perpetrators. BONELA is concerned and fears that corporal punishment of children will condone an environment of violence.

Still on the incident, Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Botswana came out on Facebook saying the country must end the tyranny of the stick in schools.

“I am not against punishment. I am not against disciplining students in schools or universities for that matter. What I disagree with is the use of violence,” the professor wrote on Facebook. Otlogetswe said for many years Botswana schools have been synonymous with sticks, whips, slaps, pinching and sometimes punching students to instil discipline. He believes such methods of disciplining children are traumatising and barbaric, and that they have only found acceptance in our education system because we are an incredibly violent society.

“Progressive communities around the world have long abandoned violence in schools. They still discipline children using multiple strategies to bring order to a learning environment. We cannot satisfy our thirst for violence by meting violence on our own children,” Otlogetswe wrote.

He further added that teachers are professionals, and they are trained at universities and colleges of education to control unruly children and classes. None of their training includes the use of violence.

“There are no classes in the administration of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment in schools is a bad habit picked from the field. It is a remnant of a far-gone era. It is not an essential element of modern education. Teachers must creatively explore a tapestry of strategies available to them to control unruly students and classes without resorting to violence. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be surprised when the learners visit violence on them,” Otlogetswe exhorted.


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