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Analysis: What’s the best way to discipline our students? Corporal punishment debate.

Analysis: What’s the best way to discipline our students? Corporal punishment debate.
Suspended Ratu Kadavulevu School principal Peni Senikarawa at the Nadi International Airport on May 7, 2018. Photo: Waisea Nasokia
May 10
11:22 2018

The conclusion of a two-part series on corporal punishment 

How do we deal with wayward students who fail to respond to counselling and exhibit anti-social behaviour?

Some say “use corporal punishment.”

Others say the students can be suspended with last warning or expelled – no need for corporal punishment.

The debate has been rekindled by the suspension of Ratu Kadavulevu School principal Peni Senikarawa for allegedly using corporal punishment to discipline a group of students.

He remains in his quarters at RKS, Lodoni, Tailevu, on full pay, awaiting the decision of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Many parents and students want him to be reinstated because he had successfully turned the school around with better academic results and excellent sporting achievements because of his tough line on discipline. Others say the law is the law and must be followed.

Corporal or physical punishment is any punishment in which physical force is intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort and all other acts leading to insult, humiliation, physical and mental injury, and even death.

Advocates of corporal punishment lived in a period when it was accepted as the common form of disciplining and correcting children. That was the only way they knew.

They use the biblical scripture, Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child to back their argument. They argue that when we ignore this advice we are going to face social problems – that include anti-social behavior. They say the issue of human rights and anti-corporal punishment movement has been elevated to absurd levels that it is causing children to rebel against parents, school authorities (as in the  RKS incident) and the establishment, even against the law.

But studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, anti-social behaviour, physical injury and mental health problems for children.  There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says corporal punishment is invariably degrading.

In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules.

Fiji is committed to the UN Convention to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings.

It has been suggested by some parents that the law should be amended so that corporal punishment in schools can be administered in a controlled setting. They say it acts as a deterrent and keeps students in line. They argue that it becomes a problem when it is conducted in anger and in an abusive manner. But when it is carried out with love to teach and instill discipline, it can have a positive impact.

The opposing group, however, contends that violence breeds violence. Research has shown that when corporal punishment is allowed, it can get out of hand and  lead to tragic consequences including injury and the loss of lives.

The use of the Biblical text ‘Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child’ to back corporal punishment is a matter of interpretation. In its literal sense the Rod represents the stick . In the ancient days it was used to hold together scrolls or manuscripts. Pro-corporal punishment groups use it to say that if we don’t use the stick to teach the children, we will spoil them.

But another interpretation says the Rod represents the scriptures. We should use the scriptures and teach our children the words of God  instead of using the stick.

The best place to teach your children is within the four walls of your home.


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