By Babatunde Ayedoju
Education has been a critical part of human society since time immemorial, especially the informal form of education that entails teaching children the norms and values of the society they have been born into. The advent of western education led to the fusion of both formal education (which schools are expected to provide) and informal education (home training which a child receives from both the parents and other adults around).
As a popular practice, those who instil discipline or home training in a child employ several methods such as counseling, punishment and flogging which is also known as corporal punishment. Corporal punishment appears to be the most popular because it is faster and appears to drive home the point better than other forms of punishment.
Corporal punishment is applied both at home and in schools. Though it is fast losing its popularity, advocates of this form of punishment justify it with the Bible verse that says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child but the rod of correction will drive it out.”
Since corporal punishment is an old practice that almost every adult in this part of the world is a product of, it ought not to make the pages of a newspaper. Unfortunately, it has featured prominently in the news on many occasions because of an unusual circumstance that results from it – death.
Last month, a Physics teacher in Alihami Mixed Secondary School, Agbor, Delta State, Mr Sunday Ufuah, lost his life suddenly. How did it happen? It was reported in the news that some students of the school went to steal palmwine from a nearby compound. The owner of the palmwine thought it wise to report the students to the school’s management. Possibly to serve as a deterrence, the students were all flogged.
One of the students refused to take the punishment in good faith. Therefore, he reported to his father and the father came to attack some of the teachers, flogging them in retaliation of his son’s beating. One of the affected teachers, Mr Ufuah, collapsed in the process and died on his way to the hospital.
The police subsequently arrested and detained the perpetrator, identified as Mr Nweke, even as the other teachers could not hold back their emotions, protesting the death of their colleague.
Also in the same month, a similar incident occurred in Al-Alzhar Academy, a private secondary in Zaria, Kaduna State, except that this one involved the death of a student, not a teacher. Nineteen year old Marwanu Nuhu-Sambo, a JSS 3 student, was flogged to death by the school authorities, a situation that led to the arrest and detention of two suspects.
According to the victim’s sister, Rukayya, the boy had said that he was not returning to school, because he failed the promotion examination and did not want to repeat the class. His uncle persuaded him and took him back to the school, handing him over to the principal.
After Marwanu’s uncle left, the principal ordered that he be given 100 strokes of the cane in the presence of some other students for absenteeism. News had it that the boy was flogged both on the assembly ground and in the principal’s office. When he tried to escape, some of the school’s prefects stopped him. While the beating was going on, Marwanu lost some teeth and finally fell into a coma. He was said to have been abandoned beside the toilet. When it dawned on everybody that there was a problem, the school’s management took him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Another viral case was reported middle of last year which involved a JSS 2 student of Simple Faith Schools, Agbara, Lagos State. The boy, Emmanuel Amidu, was said to have vomited and died after a mathematics teacher identified as Mr Steven flogged him for failing to do his assignment.
Father of the 12 year old boy, Mr Akinola Amidu, said that his son did not have any health issue before the incident occurred. He said, “I was at home that Thursday because I was on leave. I recall that Emmanuel asked me for money to buy a new exercise book and I gave him N500 to buy the book and give the remaining change to his sister. Later that day, I was called by the management of the school that Emmanuel was vomiting. Meanwhile, this was a boy who left home without any health issue. I had to go to the school and we moved him to a hospital.
“I later learnt that the whole thing started after their class teacher, Mr Steven, beat the whole of his class for not completing their mathematics assignment. Emmanuel was actually using my phone torchlight to do his assignment a day before, but I had to collect the phone from him and his sister because I needed to be in contact with the office. We had issues with our electricity at home.
“It was at LUTH that I lost my son. Meanwhile, the management of the school quickly ran to the Morogbo Police Station at Agbara to report that my son died from vomiting. How can somebody just die from vomiting if nothing triggers it? The management of the school is trying to protect the teacher,” he added.
Commenting on the trend, Professor Adediran Ikuomola, a criminology and security expert, described corporal punishment as an outdated practice that is no longer as effective as people still think it is. He explained that in the course of administering corporal punishment, some teachers transfer their aggression or frustration on students. He added that in some cases, male teachers resort to physical combat with male students, under the guise of punishment.
Ikuomola, who noted that flogging is more common in public schools than private schools due to modernisation, said that it has been abolished in most western countries and is even a crime in some climes, adding that there are better ways to instill discipline in children. According to him, such options include scolding the children, sending a report to their parents and giving them extra assignments.
The seasoned criminologist opined that if corporal punishment must be administered, there should be caution in the process, because it leads to injury and can hamper learning process in some children.
He further said, “As curriculum is being reviewed, administrative processes should also be reviewed because the world is changing and people are becoming more delicate. The first thing to do is to ensure that cane is not used at all. We don’t even talk about punishment again but correction and the two are not the same. Punishment involves inflicting some form of harm, while correction involves counseling a child to effect behavioral change.”
On the other hand, Dr Mrs. Kemi Adebola, a sociologist, described corporal punishment as part of a child upbringing since time immemorial, insisting that it was even applied more seriously in the past than it is now. The sociologist who said that we have all been punished like that at one time or the other added that there is now a world of difference between the way parents punished their children in the past and now. She said that some children are not used to being punished or flogged from home. Therefore, it is difficult for them to withstand such punishment if meted out to them outside.
As a word of caution, she said that teachers should be more sensitive to the health status of students under them, pointing out that some children already have health challenges and any little thing can easily trigger a crisis in such children.
Similarly, Dr Salman Adisa, a psychologist, opined that corporal punishment can still be administered on students for serious offences like sexual harassment and drug abuse, to serve as a deterrence, but he cautioned that it must be effectively regulated by the school’s management. He, however, stated that for offences such as lateness and truancy, there is no need to flog a child.