Training of the child is a very tedious enterprise. Parents, especially mothers, go through a whole lot, raising their wards. Many have failed and many have succeeded in this enterprise. The irresponsibility of some confirms a deeper problem than just the “fast-moving-world” that overwhelms parents.
Every home has its ways of doing things. Pursuant to this, every child experiences different parenting. Every parent does what he or she does for the better growth of his or child.
To the African, parenting is more of being “hard” on your wards. We are culturally shaped in that regard as we grow. Parents have the ultimate say and behave like autocrats. The culture makes it abundantly clear why parents ought to be listened to. So, we have the boss-subordinate kind of relationship when it comes to parents and children.
The few parents who got exposed to the western cultures have their kids treated differently. These kids are often seen as “spoilt” as they do certain things differently. They have a say in their choices even as kids to the bewilderment of those who are limited when it comes to exposure. The Western kids enjoy some democracy in their upbringing while the African child experiences some autocracy.
These two systems raise the child differently: one grows freely questioning everything while the other sparingly questions. Right from the house, the Western kid is taught to be assertive. The African child is taught more to be modest or unassertive. This ultimately affects every facet of our lives.
On the issue of punishments, children are treated differently by different cultures. I grew up in a culture where children were beaten for correctional purposes. Nonetheless, the various types of punishments and reinforcements under applied behaviour analysis were employed. In the house we were caned. In school it was worse.
In fact, most of the caning done at school was sanctioned by some parents. All these were geared at correcting behaviour. We could be right to say some was done out of malice as some teachers were just impossible. To the Western world, most methods of correcting the child would not be harsh. Imagine you being asked to go face the wall or just go to your room as a punishment. During Junior High School days, some of the students had to uproot tree stumps or even dig pits as a form of punishment.
These, elsewhere would be paid for jobs and would never be a student’s portion. We were caned for almost everything. In our academics the cane spoke, in our dressing, speeches, gestures, attitudes, the cane spoke. Some were destroyed by the cane while it made others.
I remember one madam’s cane that cannot and will not be forgotten by students who were in Tono Primary School in Navrongo in the Upper East Region when she was still in active service. The mention of Madam Naana’s name sent chills down the spine of all because she spared not the cane.
She was a fan of what we called “talk-true” cane and did not fancy the usual Azadirachta Indica commonly called Neem cane students got for teachers from the bush. She was a principled woman and spared not the rod. She was not one-sided but considered every aspect of our lives. She taught me in class three and moved with me to class four. She made life unbearable for some but others too enjoyed her ways so much except the cane. She would not take any subject verb disagreement in our speeches; she would not take shabby dressing, crumpled clothes or unkempt hair; she would not take non-seriousness; she would not take lateness. I can remember the strokes like it was yesterday when I performed poorly on that early morning “mental” we called speedwork (usually math).
I can remember the strokes when I pushed Monica’s (RIP) head against the wall which got it swollen. When Madam Naana was on duty, everything was orderly. There was fear so we all behaved well. This is not to say the other teachers were not that fearsome but Madam Naana topped that list. In all these, she was not out there trying to hurt us but help us. Madam Naana’s cane was not brutal; it was not discriminatory; it was not careless; it was not unreasonable – it was full of love. Some parents loved and endorsed her ways. I am a living example of what positive impact canes can do to our lives. I respected, feared and loved and still love her.
I commend her persistence in trying to get us up there. My education took a different turn when she taught me. Her cane may have hurt others but I know that was not her intention. She did not spare people she knew. There was a fairer application of her punishments. She was fun and brought smiles to our faces. Her ways did not make her face fierce. When she smiles that diastema blossomed. Her strabismus was a beauty to watch.
The ban on corporal punishments was met with mixed reactions. While others thought it was good, others said, it was a recipe for disaster because students would misbehave knowing they could not be instantaneously punished. Most teachers kicked against it. It was however not in their power to reject it.
Many have said, indiscipline will increase. The GES disagrees as it sees corporal punishment as cruel. It stresses that, corporal punishment not only causes physical pains but “significant emotional damage” of the child. Those backing this ban say, some teachers were extreme so it was good.
In fact, the Ghana Education Service (GES) advised parents to take teachers on if their wards were beaten. Owing to this, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) president, Angel Carbonu advised all under that umbrella to abide and be free.
“In the new code of conduct for teachers, it is stated clearly that when a teacher beats a student, the teacher will be arraigned before the disciplinary committee depending on the gravity of the situation. Therefore, I call on my teachers that as we speak today, there is a ban on corporal punishment. If you are a Maths or English teacher, go to the school and teach, carry your books and move out so that you will not be arraigned before a court that you have battered their child so that you are saved”, Citinewsroom reported.
He felt the cane played a significant role in the life of the African child and there was thus the need to contextualize this. He made it clear that, the alternative punishment toolkit was not going to help matters. He argued posterity was the better judge and that, they (NAGRAT) were ready to abide.
The recent incidences we have witnessed in our Senior High Schools is seen as caused by the fact that teachers can no longer punish students instantly but have to seek permission. The boldness with which these students spoke in those videos after their WASSCE Science paper is something to do with discipline which also relates to the GES’ decision on corporal punishment.
I know for a fact some teachers abused students when corporal punishment existed. I know some students were traumatized and reacted violently. But what I also know for sure is that, Madam Naana’s cane, made me and others.
By Pius Awennala Atiirimbey|3news.com|Ghana
The writer is a former banker and a social media activist. Views expressed in this article are entirely the writer’s and do not in any way reflect the position of 3news.com or any of its affiliate stations.