It must be really hard being a parent in today’s Rwanda. I mean, just one generation ago, the word ‘child abuse’ didn’t exist in the Rwandan Lexington and now, you are termed primitive when you cane your child.
I have lived in a few countries, but a Ugandan boarding school is an experience like no other. I can remember, as if it was yesterday, when I got my first taste of the cane as a pupil in primary school.
I was talking in class, as the math teacher Mr. Nantuliya (a name that will forever live on in infamy), went about teaching.
Now, I had seen him use his cane on numerous occasions, but I thought that I would be spared the cane. Obviously, he hadn’t gotten the memo. He called me forward, and without much ado, gave me four stokes of his ever-present bamboo cane.
To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. I would have surely reported him to the nearest police officer for daring to ‘abuse’ me if I knew where the police post was.
Children adjust quite quickly, and since I noticed that no one else complained, I shut my trap and life continued. As a less than contentious student, I tasted a few strokes every few days.
But guess what? By the time that primary school was done with me, I was passing exams with the rest of them and I had the good manners to quietly chat in class without the teachers noticing me.
The ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ approach continued even up to my O-Levels.
A few weeks back, I visited my siblings at school and they were in uproar because a teacher had slapped one on the shoulder. The shoulder! Now, I will take my siblings side in almost anything, but this time I asked myself, “What kind of softies are we raising here”?
I guess it’s a generational thing really. The huge majority of Africans my age or older, were often beaten within an inch of our lives if we did something truly atrocious, but now?
We threaten our children with ‘house arrest’ and then forget to switch off the DStv, refuse to take them to Bourbon Café and give them long winded lectures.
I thankfully don’t yet have any children of my own, but if I did, I would be in a conundrum. As a modern parent, one is expected to do things in a certain way.
It is rammed into our heads that dialogue, not brute strength, is the way to get your point across. Well, let me be a bit controversial. I think that we have thrown the baby out along with the bathwater.
A totally softie-softie approach is just silly. There is a time and place for the trusty cane. A more comprehensive understanding of child abuse must be sought; the cane isn’t bad, it’s the person who chooses to use it.
I, personally, do not plan to use it on my children. But I certainly will if provoked. If it made me pass a math exam, and I hate math, it can’t be all bad.
The author is an editor with The New Times