Sunday, March 08, 2009

Let's regulate caning of teachers

Sometime in the late 90s, this country was gripped with a raging debate on whether teachers should continue administering corporal punishment to students. It was then a norm that caning was the most used punitive measure and some schools had taken it to a whole new level—whipping and flogging students.
With cases of students getting injuries and being hospitalised because of canes administered by teachers, the civil liberties’ movement brought pressure to bear on the education ministry, which ultimately banned the practice. The adage “Spare the rod and spoil the rod” was buried forever.
In its place, teachers were asked to use more corrective means like counseling to guide learners—never mind if some of these learners---were outrightly hard-headed.
But it looks like the hunter suddenly turned hunted. In the recent past, it is cases of teachers being flogged that are making the headlines. It has now become the norm for many a politician to flog teachers, either found drunk, not in class or even with untucked shirts.
In March 2008, MP Emily Otekat canned two teachers, Isaac Opit from Omagoro Primary School and Alfred Opolot from Orupe Primary School after he found them drinking alcohol.
Pader Resident District Commissioner Santa Okot Lapolo also about two years back caned a teacher in front of pupils who cheered as the stick landed on the poor man’s behind.
But perhaps the mother of them all was the recent humiliation of Mr Jackson Bushentince, the headmaster of Ombatini Secondary School in Maracha/Terego District. He had reportedly mismanaged the school and was treating the teachers unfairly. Unwilling to let their school go to the doldrums, the students took matters into their own hands.
After rounding up the headmaster at his home, they administered five strokes of the cane, frogmarched him for 12 kilometres to the DEO’s office and demanded his transfer. Just picture a haggard-looking headmaster, with his bottom aching, being frogmarched by students, he ideally, should be disciplining!!
It is obvious that the action of these students is rooted in a societal construct that caning is a punitive measure. It is an indictment on those who banned the practice that they might have done a cosmetic duty. The practice might have subsided but it has never left people’s minds---and at any given opportunity, people will employ it. Even the students who are apparently being shielded.
Maybe we should now critically think about legalizing caning but with a view to regulating it—considering that teachers are now becoming victims. Maybe we should let all folk and sundry know that before caning a teacher, they should be subjected to a fair hearing.
If the teacher is drunk for example, we may want him to sober up first, and then ask where he got money to “waste” considering his meager earnings. Having heard his side of the story, we can then choose where to administer the strokes. The bottoms maybe unfair, considering that he must sit as he marks assignments. We can then opt for palms or knocking the ankle. We all got these kinds of punishment at some point.
Surely, if we must cane our teachers, it can be done in an organized manner.
But one may want to ask what happened to our teacher of old. The graceful, respectable village character whom everyone held in high esteem. What happened to the granaries of knowledge and custodians of culture?
Just at what point did teachers lose it that they can now become targets of can-happy politicians and students?

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