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School CP - September 2005

Corpun file 16820

Zimbabwe Chronicle, Harare, 17 September 2005


Reintroduce the cane in classrooms



Independence brought a re-definition of the rules of the teacher, the school and the instruments of enhancing positive behaviour. There was a paradigm shift in the goals of education. The entire colonial system of education underwent a comprehensive metamorphosis as curriculum implementers sought to correct in the imbalances in the school curriculum. The cane was not spared. Its use in the classroom was banned.

Psychologists while downplaying the effect of the traditional cane submitted that positive behaviour could be obtained through continuous external rewards. Philosophers argue that "Let the child learn nothing because you have told him…but because he has learnt it for himself. Let him discover science — not be taught" (Barker 1986:47).

This philosophy (realism) advanced that children discover for themselves rather than being told by teachers.

Meanwhile, a code of conduct was crafted for teachers in relationship to caning. Caning was criminalised through some statutory instruments circulated in schools. Today, any teacher who canes a school child in class is liable for prosecution no matter what offence is committed by the child. Any teacher who dares cane a child risks repulsion by the child or the legal system. The teacher can be arraigned before a court of law to answer charges of assault.

The teacher's hands are now tied hence the pupils now have the temerity to insult the teacher, scorn the teacher, fight in class, ignore school work, refuse to take instructions, use vulgar language, play truant, gamble, smoke, drink beer but escape with it.

Only the head of school sparingly canes pupils and records such action in the logbook.

What have been the consequences of condemning the rod in our Zimbabwean schools?

The rod has been spared and in my view, the children have been spoiled. Teachers find themselves in a very difficult situation because on one hand they are expected to mould the pupils into future responsible citizens are not supposed to use the cane to assist them achieve the objective. It is a fact that teacher no longer care about children's behaviour.

Children do as they wish in schools.

Results are poor since schools have no cultural instrument (rod) for instilling social order based on school rules. Schools no longer enjoy collective conscience between teachers and their pupils. The instruments for enforcing the school norms, values and practices have been banned. Teachers no longer have the traditional authority to enhance positive behaviour by acting as disciplinarians.

Are teachers not parents who should take care of the discipline of their pupils?

Is society as a whole not feeling and experiencing the moral crisis in schools? Are we, as a country aware of the repercussions of moral decadence confirmed by the high failure rate in our schools?

Because of the foregoing, it is my contention that we need the intervention of Parliament. Our Parliament should as a matter of urgency revisit the statutes outlawing caning of pupils by teachers in the classroom.

We need the rod back in the classroom. Our society can not totally ignore the cane under an alien claim of using theories.

To a large extent, a cane, in our culture produced positive results. Teachers are parents who can use a cane where appropriate to enhance positive behaviour and other social attributes, which produce positive academic results in schools.

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