Corporal punishment was outlawed in Rwandan schools but behind the walls in schools and homes, the debate on whether the stick or the carrot is better at disciplining children goes on silently. Some teachers and parents believe that the carrot is not enough when it comes to effective disciplining of children.
Why the carrot is better?
Studies have showed that corporal punishment doesn’t reinforce discipline or motivation. Instead, it only makes learners aggressive. The new order in education calls for motivation and use of incentives to lure children into good behavior and interest in reading hard.
The biblical adage of spare the rod and spoil the child has lost favour to giving incentives – for example a new shirt or dress for a reward for passing exams or a promise to motivate the student.
Lillian Mbabazi, a teacher at Little Angels in Kicukiro, Kigali argues that motivation is key in improving performance of learners. She advises parents and teachers to always engage children in activities that motivate them.
At home, Mbabazi says parents should give their children different roles and motivational responsibilities depending on their age.
“When this is done, it makes learners more curious, which gives them the morale to continue doing their best to impress their teachers and parents. And this plays a big role in performing well in academics,” Mbabazi says.
Isaac Ndumba, a teacher at La Colombiere School in Kigali warns parents and teachers who ignore children even when they have done something extraordinary that it can lead to negative consequences academically and socially.
He notes that they mostly give them attention when they are mischievous, which could lead to disappointment.
“My advice is to always motivate and reward good behaviour with attention and praise. This shouldn’t only apply to academics; other areas should be considered. This gives children morale to give it their all in whatever they do,” he says.
Emmy Giruwonsanga, a teacher at APPEC Secondary School in Remera, Kigali, notes that if children are not motivated, they become dormant and dependant on their parents as well as teachers.
“This is dangerous as it creates room for idleness which can lead to them to engage in other vices that can be a thorn in their academics. The case is different when they are occupied with tasks and responsibilities that match their age,” he says.
Giruwonsanga notes that when there is no motivation, learners lack critical thinking, which affects their curiosity and in the end fail to discover their potential too.
Bienvenue Cheez Murangwa, the executive director of Root Foundation, Kigali, a local charity organisation that supports street children, believes that learners have weak areas, which they can improve if only they get the right motivation.
“I think parents and teachers should understand the child’s ability and weakness. This will help them improve in their weak areas. This includes identifying things that make them happy or feel good,” he says.
They should also be in a position to know their potential. This, according to him, gives the guardian or teacher a clear picture on how best they can motivate their children.
By doing so, it improves the communication between parents, teachers and students, which is the most vital thing when it comes to excelling in academics.
“If one is not motivated, chances are that this person will not succeed or achieve a lot in what they do. This also applies to learners, they need motivation to help them achieve in life,” he adds.
Murangwa adds that teachers should be able to create motivational activities for learners in class and outside class.
“It’s still hard for this to happen in most schools because teachers have a big number of students to deal with. This becomes difficult for them to deal with individuals, which denies students a chance when it comes to personal motivation,” he says.
He points out that to achieve this, teachers should do it collectively while at school. Parents should take it up from home as it’s easier for them to motivate their children one at a time.
This can be done through putting specific targets for their children and making sure they maintain that throughout their learning experience.
However, he warns that if the motivation is through incentives, parents should buy their children scholastic materials and not other items that are not related to school work.
When it comes to attitude, Nestor Niyitegeka, a computer and ICT teacher at Nyange 1 Secondary School in Musanze District, says it varies in different aspects. For instance, he notes that parents, teachers and students attitude contributes a lot to success.
“It’s so hard for any learner to perform well in a particular subject, or in general, if they have a bad attitude towards a teacher or certain subjects,” he says.
This, he says, includes their perspective concerning their teachers and the subjects as well as how they relate to each other.
For Ndumba, when it comes to learners, they tend to emulate adults.
For instance, he says that attitude comes from parents, teachers and the students themselves. All these have either negative or positive impacts on a student’s life.
“Much of what they do they copy from their mates or adults. If a learner comes from a home with negative attitude, their performance will be in trouble,” he says.
Emmanuel Kavamahanga, a Kigali based psychologist, is of the view that a teacher sets a positive learning attitude and not the learners. Sometimes, learners develop a negative or positive attitude from their environment; that is class or home.
“African children are developing a ‘western attitude’ from watching too much television or using their smart phones for social media, and this can be seen in the way they reason some times.
“Teachers and parents should be more careful on how they handle students, as they tend to shift their attitude depending on what they have watched or seen,” he says.
People share their views
Helman Nkubiri, Specialist in special needs education
Before motivating a child, I think as parents we should create a conducive environment for our children to communicate. This is vital as it gives them time to open up and share whatever they feel or wish to change or improve. Through this, a parent can find out how best they can motivate them in different aspects.
Celestine Karangwa, a physician
As parents, we must identify the extracurricular activities our children like and help nurture them. This can be by providing tools and material needed for such, by doing this; we are contributing to their positive attitude towards games, which is key in academic success.
Cathy Uwamahoro, a Kigali based mentor
Motivation is not just about rewarding a learner, encouraging and supporting them is more helpful, especially by identifying their weak areas. As a parent, I always find a way to support my kids whenever I feel like they are stuck. Besides, listening to them can also change their attitude towards information given to them.
Deo Jyamubanda, a graduate in communications
When advising or counselling children; parents should not compare them to their fellow students. This can kill the morale a child has and make them develop a negative attitude towards the way they do things. Telling them they are special and can achieve anything in life boosts their self esteem.