PRIMARY and Secondary Education minister Torerai Moyo came under fire from teachers unions early this week after he condemned the use of corporal punishment in schools, saying the disciplinary measure is outdated and has failed to instil discipline in schools.
While Moyo’s stance could be justified from a child rights’ point of view, we believe he needs to take on board other stakeholders’ viewpoints considering the high level of delinquency in schools these days.
Spare the rod, spoil the child is an aphorism commonly used to support the practice of physical discipline towards children, but proponents of corporal punishment seem to view the centuries-old adage as justification to inflict harm on delinquent schoolchildren.
The debate around corporal punishment is a complex one.There is no doubt that corporal punishment can be harmful to children, especially when excessive force is applied.
It can cause physical and emotional pain, and it can lead to long-term psychological problems.
On the other hand, it is also true that levels of indiscipline in schools have reached alarming proportions, hence the need to review disciplinary measures currently in force to restore sanity in our centres of learning.
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Therefore, stakeholders ought to agree on best measures to restore sanity in schools.
Moyo’s top-bottom approach, while it may sound noble, is likely to face resistance until he reaches out to the educators for a win-win situation.
In Zimbabwe, the use of corporal punishment in schools is still legal.
However, the government has issued guidelines that restrict its use after realising that some overzealous teachers went overboard and injured students in the name of instilling discipline.
The guidelines for applying corporal ought to be clear cut and this measure should only apply in extreme circumstances and as a last resort.
There are many alternative forms of discipline that teachers can use, such as positive reinforcement, time-outs, and suspension.
These methods are more effective in instilling discipline, and they do not cause the same physical and emotional harm as corporal punishment.
Besides, corporal punishment is a violation of children's rights.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Zimbabwe has ratified, states that children have the right to be protected from all forms of violence, including physical and psychological punishment.