Greater caution is needed in corporal punishment moves

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The government needs to proceed with caution if they are serious about reviving corporal punishment as a way to deal with bad behaviour in schools. 

We accept that the issue is complex and there is no one size fits all kind of solution. But greater care is needed to ensure that in our haste to fix a problem, we do not unknowingly create more problems. 

In other words, the government needs to think careful and consult widely about its plan to allow teachers to smack students again, under the guise of discipline and correction. It if it didn’t work in the past, it is unlikely to work now, especially given the time and age we live in.

Come to think of it, the mere fact we are having a conversation about corporal punishment as a solution in 2017 – yes this is the 21st century – is an indictment on the leadership of this country on all levels. 

It’s a diabolical attempt to solve a problem that has many roots – with the main root leading back to what happens within individual families and the relationship between parents and children.

Quite often we hear our leaders praise themselves about how wonderful they have done and talk about how far we have come as a nation on many different fronts.

 And yet as we are about to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018, they simply cannot think of any other way to change behaviour so they are now bringing back corporal punishment. 

This is downright sad. And this comes after all those thousands of tala spent on workshops, meetings, conferences where our leaders have travelled the world on how to change behaviour and get rid of violence in the community. 

Let’s try and get this right, on one hand you are telling people to stop violence and on the other hand you are encouraging violence by reviving something that had been outlawed because it was found to create more problems?

Who is the “idiot” here? And can you blame people for being confused? Can you see the contradiction in all this? Ridiculous, isn’t it? 

As a community, we have to make up our minds about where we want to go. We cannot go in all directions. We must decide carefully which way we go.

Sometime ago, the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, revealed the government’s plan to address inter-school fights. At the time, Minister Loau said he accepts that it is an extreme step but the issue of school violence is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed.

 “We are looking at ways that we can solve the problem because we cannot leave the problem like this otherwise it will get bigger and then we won’t be able to solve it,” Loau said.

 “As you know, back in the days when corporal punishment was allowed, things were very different. Even in the Bible, there are multiple verses that talk about corporal punishment and how a child should be disciplined.”

Loau said that something about “the cane” made a difference.

 “It was painful but look at most of them now. They are very successful but that was due to the discipline,” he said.

Let’s pause here for a second. Discipline comes from the word disciple. The art of discipleship in a nutshell is to follow the examples set for us. When it comes to children, discipline is not the job of teachers and the education system. That is the job of parents and families at home where attitudes and behaviour should be shaped.

The problem we’ve seen is that when the job of discipline is left to teachers, they do not know where to stop. A slap turns into a whack. A simple cane suddenly changes to a 4x4 piece of wood so that discipline becomes an all out assault. We have seen this happen before and there is no guarantee that it will not happen again.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe, like all Christian parents, that there is a place for discipline. But discipline means a lot more than smacking our children. It means a lot more than the rod and the cane. It means to spend quality moments with them, communicate with them, love them and tell them why we do the things we do. If we have to slap them on the wrist, it’s got to be done with love.

I’ve seen parents whack their young toddlers across the face in the name of love and discipline. That is not discipline, it is assault and they should be held accountable for it by the law.

The fact of the matter is that charity begins at home. If children are brought up in a peaceful environment and taught the right lessons about discipline – including those verses from the Bible about love, respect and good behaviour -they will find it very hard to stray from it.

There is another element to all this of course. It’s hard enough for teachers to teach our children. Let’s not add another burden on their shoulders by giving them an opportunity to incriminate themselves. When the law says a teacher can smack a child, we are inviting trouble.

The truth is that it’s not the teacher’s job to nurture and instill good behaviour.

Their job is to teach our children what is in the curriculum and give them the best opportunity at getting ahead in life. It’s the parents, families, churches and villages’ job to raise children and instill values and good behaviour. 

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Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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