Years ago in the era of President Ketumile Masire, public flogging was outlawed in this country. It was relegated to the dressing room and only restricted to the buttock. It is my honest believe that this was a turning point for this country in as far as our discipline code is concerned and this is where we lost it. Here is my thesis on why I have taken this path into what others may prefer to term as the wilderness.
For those of us born in the 1960s and 70s, our parents used to reiterate this to all of us; that thupa ga e bolae (flogging does not kill). Flogging and especially when it is administered in public is the best panacea to any form of indiscipline we may be faced with. It is the duty of every parent to administer this perfect medicine to our children.
Given the opportunity, I make references to the Holy Scriptures and when dealing with this matter even the unbelieving have in mind Proverbs 13:24 which reads; “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” The Bible comes in several translations and here is one of them that intrigues my understanding of this scripture. It reads this; “He who spares accountability hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”
This simply means that if children are not physically punished when they do wrong, their personal development will suffer. At this point we as parents need to introspect and see where we have gone wrong. There is a serious parent/child relationship that we need to unpack here in order to understand the genesis of this growing violence among our youth.
Before I delve deep into matters of this violent generation, let me give the youthful reader a perspective of the generation we came from. We were not a holy lot at all. Fighting was common among us and especially boys. Some of these fights got so violent that there was bloodshed as some at school would resort to the use of a sharp mathematical instrument called the compass.
Growing up we were always fighting for superiority. There was a belief that everyone must know where they fall in terms of their ranking and this happened in those years when boxing was somewhat popular than soccer. As boys we always knew who the champion of the world was and as well as the champion of our local turf.
I was always engulfed in a dilemma. If I fought at school and lost, my parent would admonish me with a rod for cowardice. And equally if I won a bout at school and my parent would happen to learn about it, I knew I was going to earn a serious beating for bullying others. So I went on to building alliances and from there on I knew I was protected. This came at a price as I had to pay some homage to get my protection in place.
It is interesting that such alliances have been translated to the level of international relations for security. Right now the issue at NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is that the US is withdrawing its forces in their thousands out of German soil because the latter is not honouring their security obligations of spending at the least 2% of their GDP in the military.
But we were never violent and disrespectful to our teachers. We were mentored by that generation of teachers who were respected and venerated by the whole village. As they walked around the village, they were paid homage with chicken eggs. That was the highest honour a teacher would receive from those poor families. I do not recall anyone of our youths ever talking back or threatening a teacher.
In the debates around this issue regarding the discipline of our children, I have come across the words of Marshall Motshwarakgabo from Oodi who had to say; “Basic things first; you see the level of neglect of educational infrastructure …dilapidated facilities, demoralised teachers and a hopeless generation who see their elder graduate siblings and parents languish in poverty and unemployment…we need a total overhaul of our system. Families need to go back to basics, we cannot raise our children like the English when we are not in England simply because we speak their language, use their intermediary to reach God, buy their technology etcetera etcetera. We still remain 4th world Africans in an arid and lousy little country that has lost its soul.”
The above statement is truly loaded and as a society we need to reflect around these issues. It is the transformation we have gone through in the last five and a half decades that needs review to find answers for the ills of our society. Our society is rotten and we surely need to go back to the crossroads and find our true path, one that will not lead to destruction.
Our young people are messing up because they know that there will be no adverse consequences. We all have been young people and particularly teenage hood. We have caused trouble and the thought of punishment was always lingering in our minds. The thought of being flogged was a true reality and it was something most of us were not prepared to endure.
The whip which was kept visible in some homes was deterrence. The whip that some teachers carried around the classroom was a vivid reminder that we dare not cross the redline. Some have said this was an inappropriate way of upbringing as our fate was determined through violence. Had we not gone through that phase, most of us would not have made it in life.
Our education system needs a serious reformation and our justice system equally needs to be reformed. We are currently proud to see our young people go to jail and we have even called some of our penitentiary institutions “Boys Prison.” Boys end up in prison because as nation we have made a deliberate choice to deny them discipline through the rod.