This chapter presents review of the literature on the corporal punishment and student’s academic performance in secondary schools. The presentation follows the order of the objectives, which are; to identify various impacts on corporal punishment on student’s academic performance in secondary schools in Mbarara Municipality; to identify the alternatives to corporal punishment of secondary school students and to analyze how the administration of punishments by head teachers affect students‟ academic performance.
The various impacts on corporal punishment on student’s academic performance
The arguments for and against corporal punishment are as follows:
Soneson and Smith (2005:22) reports that there are complainants who believe that corporal punishment is a necessary part of upbringing and education and that children learn from smacking and beating and if not smacked or beaten, the following values can’t be acquired: respect for parents and teachers, sense of right and wrong, compliance to rules and hard work thus, without corporal punishment, children will be spoilt and undisciplined.
Davidoff and Lazarus (2002:3), Soneson & Smith (2005:3) and Vally (2004:6) reject the previous argument by stating that the use of corporal punishment is not justified because it is sometimes used routinely, unreasonably and unfairly and is often an outlet for the pent-up feelings of adults rather than an attempt to educate children and the advocates for the end of corporal punishment emphasize that however real adults’ problems may be, venting them on children cannot be justifiable (www.endcorporalpunishment.org, 2010:2).
Causative factors that may be leading to indiscipline are often ignored, e.g. hunger, thirst, lack of rest, stressful or abusive family situations, caring for a sick parent or taking care of siblings due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, medical problems, bereavement, divorce, abuse, neglect, large classrooms, walking long distances to school, lack or absence of individual attention and lack of support services (Andero & Stewart, 2002:33). Gang and drug related warfare also threatens the lives of both teachers and learners so using a ‘quick fix’ such as corporal punishment; an adult might miss the opportunity to deal with the actual problem facing the child (www.endcorporalpunishment.org, 2010:2). As a result, violence will breed violence.
Furthermore, Andero and Stewart (2002:33), Owen (2005:4) agrees that there is no clear evidence that corporal punishment leads to better control in the classroom, enhances moral character development in children or increases the students’ respect for teachers or other authority figures because it does not instruct a child in correct behaviour and without the replacement behaviour being taught, there will be nothing to take the place of inappropriate behaviour.
Benatar (2009:11) rejects the argument that corporal punishment teaches learners that violence begets violence but he claims, rather, that it is an appropriate way to settle differences and to respond to problems. Benatar (2009:11) questions the belief that children are taught to be violent and that a significant number of people who commit crimes were physically punished as children. In his argument, to dispute the subjectivity of the statement that, “violence breeds violence”, he claims the following: “If we suggest that hitting a wrongdoer imparts the message that violence is a fitting means to resolve conflict, then surely we should be committed to saying that detaining a child or imprisoning a convict conveys the message that restricting liberty is an appropriate manner to deal with people who displease one, and we would also be required to concede that fining people conveys the message that forcing others to pay fines is an acceptable way to respond to those who act in a way that one does not like. If beatings send a message, why don’t detentions, imprisonments, fines, and a multitude of other punishments convey equally undesirable messages?”
Benatar (2009:11) notes that there is all the difference in the world between legitimate authorities-the judiciary, parents, or teachers-using punitive powers responsibly to punish wrongdoing and children or private citizens going around beating each other, locking each other up, and extracting financial tributes (such as lunch money). There is a vast moral difference and there is no reason why children should not learn about it, and punishing them when they do wrong seems to be one important way of doing this. To suggest that children cannot extract this message but only the cruder version of it described above, suggests that parents/teachers underestimate the expressive function of punishment and people’s ability to comprehend it. Nevertheless, those who are beaten do commit violence against others and it might not be that they got this message from the punishment, but that being subject to the wilful infliction of pain causes rage and this gets vented through acts of violence on others so there is insufficient evidence that the properly restricted use of corporal punishment causes increased violence.
Alternatives to corporal punishment of secondary school students
Majority of educational practitioners encounter disciplinary problems that are beyond their experience and expertise. In response to this need teachers have attempted to find solutions to some of the discipline problems. For instance some schools will apply some alternatives of punishments other than corporal punishment that are useful to the community such as a Saturday afternoon working party to cut long grass, clean ditches counseling and guidance pastoral teaching, sending for parents recommending deviant pupils to approved schools, or involving police for serious crimes (Wambura, 2010).
Griffins (1996) felt that a grave offence is best dealt with through counseling rather than corporal punishment. Suspension should be used rarely when an offender harasses other pupils
or set a really bad example to them. Tattum (1989) proposed different ways to deal with disruptive behavior. Good behavior should be rewarded while the unpleasant behavior should be ignored. Counseling by members of school and pastoral programme should also be used. The teachers play the role of friend and advisors to pupils with difficulties. In addition they are disciplinarians to those whose behavior is giving cause of concern. Punishment for misbehavior may include detention or suspension. In case of absenteeism parents should be involved because they play a role in the pupil’s attitudes.
Gichuru (2004) suggested that teachers should think of withdrawal of certain privileges as a disciplinary strategy. Teachers can also choose activities that are valuable to the students and use them. Such activities include group discussion, engaging students with educational activities or reciting poems for their educational needs.
A government task force of 1975 with a title of “A Manual for Headteachers in Secondary Schools” suggested the use of reprimand particularly if the student respects the person issuing them. Several studies agree on the fact that students do not mind teachers who are strict with them as long as they are competent. An essay on why a pupil would not talk when a teacher is talking will cause the youngsters to reflect his/her rudeness and at the same time given him/her practice in correct writing (M.O.E., 1975).