Teachers and administrators impose corporal punishment on students for a variety of reasons. They beat pupils who perform poorly on exams, who talk in class, or who misbehave in countless other ways. Many teachers, administrators, and parents believe that these violent punishments are necessary to teach children a lesson and to discourage them from similar practices in the future. Other teachers say that they prefer not to use physical means of disciplining students; however, they say that they must resort to these methods because they may be responsible for seventy-five or more students per class, and that they have no other way to maintain control of such a large group of young persons.
However, educators and psychologists argue that teachers can oversee classrooms and develop their pupils' knowledge, skill, and aptitudes through means other than corporal punishment. For example, they claim that praising pupils' good behavior, imposing non-physical punishments, and involving children in making the school rules significantly reduces disciplinary problems. These educators and psychologists argue that alternative methods of discipline are more beneficial and less detrimental to a child's development than corporal punishment. These alternatives do not necessarily require the investment of significant amounts of additional funds, according to advocates of these means.
Kenyans involved in training teachers told us that they encourage instructors to use methods of discipline other than physical sanctions. "We stress that teachers should try to avoid caning," said Pancras Otwani, the director of professional studies at Tambach Primary Teachers College. "It used to be thought that corporal punishment brightened the head, but we know now that it does not. It reduces the child's status. We suggest a variety of otherpunishments-like denying the child what the child wants, rebuke, or parading the child, or sending the child home to collect the parents."57
Apollo K. Owuor, director of the School Improvement Program (SIP) in Kisumu, told us that his programs "try to challenge teachers to come up with innovative ways of teaching children, so that the child is the center of learning, to make learning interactive. The approach that teachers are using is not conducive to learning. If children don't understand what they're being taught, then that becomes a discipline problem. . . . We tell teachers to think about ways of involving children in small groups to participate in learning. We've even shown them films on the subject, so they can see how teachers teach in other countries. Children should be brave enough to challenge and question the teacher in the classroom. This is what we want."58
According to educational experts who oppose the use of corporal punishment, use of positive reinforcement techniques reduces the frequency and extent of student misbehavior. Teachers can reward students in a variety of simple ways. An instructor can praise a pupil in front of the student's classmates or other instructors, award special certificates to children who perform well or are particularly caring, or list their names on notice boards. A teacher can write positive comments in a child's exercise book. Teachers can hold school-wide competitions and give material rewards like exercise books or pens to those who do well.59 If a teacher rewards students by giving them positive attention, the teacher can punish a particular pupil by ignoring that pupil's attempts to be disruptive. A student may break the rules because he or she wants the teacher's attention. If the teacher is not ruffled or angered by the pupil's misdeed, then the student is less likely to perform the act in the future. Denial of what the child has come to value is a form of punishment, according to educators and psychologists opposed to physical punishment of children.60
When asked about alternatives to corporal punishment, Kenyan pupils said that their teachers should reward them more often for their good behavior. "I think there could be alternatives to caning," said seventeen-year-old Richard O. "I don't know: if we had outings and rewards, I think we would be happier and behave well because we would be happier. We are unhappy here, and so we misbehave."61 Eleven-year-old Margaret M. from Coast Province attributed students' good behavior to the school's reward system. "When you perform well, at the end of the year we are given prizes," she told us.62 Most students we interviewed indicated that their teachers did not regularly praise them for good behavior or academic achievement, and expressed their desire for this.
Guidance and Counseling
Some students may not conform to their teachers' requirements due to reasons outside of their control. They may not have enough to eat, they may travel a long distance to school, their parents may expect them to work when theyare not at school, they may need to take care of their younger siblings, or their parents may quarrel often. These external factors affect their abilities to concentrate and the amount of time and energy they can devote to school.63
Under these circumstances, beating a child is unlikely to be a productive punishment, according to educators and psychologists who oppose corporal punishment. A teacher is more likely to elicit appropriate behavior if the teacher can understand the situation that the child faces and offer guidance and counseling to the student and the student's family. According to a Namibian Ministry of Education text, "[t]alking and listening to a learner can frequently lead to a change in behavior for the better. If the learner knows that there is someone who cares about his or her problems, the problems become easier to carry, even if there is no way to change them."64
Kenyan Ministry of Education officials state that they encourage their teachers to practice "guiding and counseling" as a first step in the disciplinary process. "We are increasingly strengthening our guiding and counseling in the schools," said one Ministry official. "Now we have a guidance counselor at every [secondary] school." He went on to explain that the ministry and the schools also use the religious organizations to identify guidance and counseling for the various primary schools.65
Many of teachers with whom we spoke stated that they attempt to guide and counsel the students before they impose physical punishment. "You ask a pupil why he didn't do the work," said a Standard Seven instructor at Ng'ate Primary School in Central Province. "You wonder whether to discipline or understand the child. Problems concerning discipline problems arise from home. Parents say it is the work of the teacher. We [the teachers] try to give them guidance and counseling; we came from the same environment."66
Some teachers told us that they have decreased their reliance on corporal punishment and increased their emphasis on guiding and counseling programs. "As far as our punishment in the school, over the years caning was the most common punishment that was given to children in the schools," said Suleiman Mwalonya, headteacher at Golini Primary School. "Over the years that has changed . . . . we normally use a lot of guiding and counseling. . . . We have been enlightened by the Ministry [of Education] to gauge the type of punishment we give to the boys."67 Teachers also noted that guiding and counseling programs are more effective with older students, especially those enrolled in Standard Six and above.68
However, teachers and educators state that they need more training in order for them to effectively implement guidance and counseling programs.69 According to Pancras Otwani, director of professional studies at Tambach Primary Teachers College, aspiring teachers spend no more than a total of four or five hours out of their two year training program learning methods of classroom management and discipline.70
Once the new teachers leave college, they have very few opportunities for "in-service" training in alternative disciplinary methods, according to instructors and educational officials we interviewed. Although some districts have regular supplemental training programs, many teachers with whom we spoke told us that there are few professional development classes in discipline, and that teachers are expected to locate the sessions on their own and to find the funds to pay for them.
For example, the head teacher at Kangundo D.E.B. School told us that he located a guiding and counseling program at Daystar University in Nairobi, and that he paid for the enrollment of one of his teachers out of the school's discretionary accounts. The government did not provide him assistance in finding the course or funding his teacher's participation. Other teachers told us that those instructors selected to participate in these programs do not always share the knowledge they have gained with their fellow teachers.71
Educators and psychologists who oppose the use of corporal punishment state that teachers should impose non-physical disciplinary measures as an alternative to beatings. Advocates propose that teachers require students to write a statement describing the negative effects of their behavior, or to apologize for the mistake in front of their classmates. Instructors can require the misbehaving child to sit on a chair or a mat at the back of the room and to think about their mistake and of ways to improve their behavior. Teachers can ask the child to perform additional academic work. They can require the student to bring the student's parents to school to talk about the student's behavior.72
Many opponents of corporal punishment argue that instructors may also discipline a child by assigning non-abusive physical tasks. They state that teachers can ask students to perform light chores, to water or weed a school shamba, or to fix what they have broken: "Learners who build chairs are not apt to break them. Learners who wash walls are not apt to make them dirty on purpose. If learners are reinforced for keeping their schoolyard neat and clean, they are less likely to throw trash on it," according to the Namibian Ministry of Education and Culture.73 Advocates state that these punishments should be administered in a thoughtfully and not in an excessive or exploitative manner.
Setting Rules and Expectations
Disciplinary measures will be more effective if the teacher makes clear his or her expectations at the beginning of the term, according to educators and psychologists opposed to corporal punishment. If the students know the rules in advance, then there are no surprises when the instructor penalizes those who break them. Students are more likelyto perceive the punishment as just, to maintain their respect for the teacher, and to obey the guidelines if the regulations are made explicit than if not.74
Furthermore, student acceptance of the rules will increase if pupils participate in setting guidelines for the classroom. The process of establishing guidelines will give them a greater understanding of the reasons for the regulations, and they will see themselves as having a stake in their enforcement.75
57 Human Rights Watch interview with Pancras Otwani, May 12, 1999. 58 Human Rights Watch interview with Apollo K. Owuor, Kisumu, May 11, 1999.
59 Michael Kimaryo et al., Discipline Without Beating: A Challenge for Educators (Isamilo, Mwanza, Tanzania: Kulena Center for Children's Rights, 1998).
60 Ministry of Education and Culture, Republic of Namibia, Discipline With Care: Alternatives to Corporal Punishment (Namibia: Ministry of Education and Culture, 1993).
61 Human Rights Watch interview with Richard O.
62 Human Rights Watch interview with Margaret M. See also Human Rights Watch interview with Franz P. (stating that student are given rewards of exercise books if they perform well, and they may be exempted from paying school assessments, which are KSh2000 annually).
63 Human Rights Watch interview with Ben Ogatemo, Deputy Head teacher, Ng'ate Primary School, Central Province, May 6, 1999.
64 Namibia Ministry of Education and Culture, Discipline With Care.
65 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Obonyo, Nairobi, May 5, 1999.
66 Human Rights Watch interview with Standard Seven instructor, Ng'ate Primary School, Central Province, May 6, 1999. See also Human Rights Watch interview with Headteacher K.A. Manxu, Khadija Primary, north of Mombasa, May 13, 1999 ("If a child fights in the school, we summon the parents, and ask them to come and sit with us. We counsel them, we warn them, we tell them it is not good. For instance, there are times when the big boys and girls fight. When this happens sometimes it is something at home that is causing it, so we speak to the parents. You don't punish a child for the sake of punishing, but so that they will reform. Sometimes maybe you find that a child is falling asleep in class. And maybe it is because the child had not taken tea at home that morning, so he is falling asleep. And maybe if you beat him it just makes him frustrated. So you must try to understand."); Human Rights Watch interview with District Education Officer Francis Kiplagat, Tambach, May 12, 1999 ("Discipline is the most important aspect in bringing up an individual. There's self discipline and there's enforced discipline. Correction can be done in several ways. We try to encourage guidance and counseling. If they are able to take it without the cane, we are happy.").
67 Human Rights Watch interview with Suleiman Mwalonya, Kwale District, May 11, 1999 (adding that "[w]e are fearing that we may be taken to court when we cane a child... this time the public is aware of its rights... ").
68 Human Rights Watch interview with Samuel K. Mungai, Munyu Primary School, Naivasha, May 6, 1999.
69 Human Rights Watch interview with John H. Omino, municipal education officer, Kisumu Municipality, May 11, 1999 (stating that teachers need much more training in guiding and counseling programs and that not all teachers have the right skills to do it); Human Rights Watch interview with Standard One Teacher Mary Macharia, Munyu Primary School, May 6, 1999 ("No one likes to cane children. We don't have alternatives now, but I would like to learn about other ways of disciplining of children. We do not like to cane, and it is also risky.").
70 Human Rights Watch interview with Pancras Otwani, Tambach, May 12, 1999.
71 Human Rights Watch interview with teacher Joyce Wekesa, Kisumu, May 10, 1999.
72 Kimaryo et al., Discipline Without Beating.
73 Namibia Ministry of Education and Culture, Discipline With Care, pp. 9-10.
74 Kimaryo et al., Discipline Without Beating, p. 24; Namibia Ministry of Education and Culture, Discipline With Care, pp. 8, 11.
75 Kimaryo et al., Discipline Without Beating, p. 25 ("As much as possible, let the students participate in the process of formulating school procedures and rules rather than just depending on what their teachers have decided for them. This will also help the students understand and follow the rules they have set themselves.").