Last week, I was supervising the 8B class. There are 40 learners in the class and the whole class is generally regarded as a problem class. Lots of kids fail, lots of troublemakers.
My job was to keep them quiet as other classes were writing exams. This was extremely challenging. First I asked them to be quiet. Then I walked around the class and told individual people to be quiet. Then I started taking time away from their break every time I had to ask them to be quiet. For most people, that was effective. But there were four boys who WOULD NOT stop talking. I went and stood right in front of them. No effect. I took more time away from their break. I thought about asking them to move seats, but realized I would physically have to pull them up and move them myself as they were determined to ignore me. I stood in between them and asked them to stop talking. They literally ignored me, leaned around me, and continued their conversation.
Wow, I was annoyed. I called for another teacher, a male teacher who speaks their language, thinking maybe they’d listen to him. He came and called them out of the class – but instead of talking to them, he beat the back of their hands with a piece of wood. They came back in rubbing their hands and looking sulky. But do you know what? They were silent for the remainder of the period – over an hour.
You have to admit – the beating worked where other methods of discipline failed. I do not think that this shows that corporal punishment is the best way to deal with problem kids. But I think maybe it shows the difficulty of switching from a system of corporal punishment to another system? Maybe kids who have been beaten for punishment in the past really will just ignore all other forms of punishment because they’re not nearly as bad as a beating.
For the record, corporal punishment in now illegal in Namibia. However, it is still the de facto form of punishment in most schools. I have even had learners argue in favor of beating as a punishment because it’s the only way some people will listen.
Once again, I don’t think that’s the answer. But how do you make the shift from this system to another? Maybe it just takes time. What do you think?