Research and experience has shown that performance in schools is highly dependent on discipline. Discipline in all areas within schools, creates a good teaching and learning environment. That is why student’s discipline remains a big issue today.
The paradox however, is in its implementation. The classical way of enforcing punishment by subjecting learners to physical punishment, has been challenged by many scholars and officials in the education sector.
Students could be beaten using small sticks or were ordered to do some manual labour as punishment to certain misconduct in schools.
Indiscipline of students can be evidenced inside classrooms, in compounds or outside school premises or in a neighbouring community.
All these areas fall in the ‘jurisdictions’ of teachers and school administrators. In the past, Students could be punished whenever they misbehaved while in such areas.
This is what came to be popularly known as ‘teaching with tears’. Teaching with tears is when an authority or a teacher punishes a student so that he or she keeps tuned to the teaching and learning process or adheres to school rules and regulations.
This is what it means at least in our context. The practice has been greatly discouraged and a student or parent may sue any teacher to courts of law, who punishes a student using a stick, as it is classified as corporal punishment.
Teachers have as a result complained in many occasions that they should not be blamed for students’ indiscipline because the law is not their ally.
The whole issue therefore, remains paradoxical as we continue to evidence high indiscipline in schools and school environment.
Désiré Munyarukiko, a long time serving secondary school teacher opined that; “we are having bad time with poorly behaved students. They are old enough and know that we are very limited in terms of punishing them. We cannot beat them and all we do is to shout until we are tired and keep quite”.
Teachers are no longer instrumental in punishing the students and as the above teacher says, they have resigned. The only option remaining is so taxing in terms of concern and responsibility. If teachers cannot teach with tears, then they are left to act as counsellors all the time. This is so demanding and to be realistic very few teachers can manage it.
“Teaching adolescents discipline using mere words is very unpractical. It would cost you all the time you would have otherwise used to teach. Parents and authorities want it that way and we have got to respect it, but I do not see it making a lot of sense”, remarked Charles at teacher at St. Aloys in Rwamagana.
The irony about the whole issue is that, when the students go back to their families, parents (some) punish them, using sticks and other ways. If we expect teachers to behave like parents, why do we feel that they should use other means of punishment other than the ones we use?
It should be remembered that teachers stay longer with our children than we do through the year. They therefore deserve trust and if they don’t, then our children are in danger.
Efforts to narrow the distance between learners and teachers should leave no stone unturned. It has a very big educational implication; learners must be free to consult a teacher when necessary and at the right time, for if they don’t, they will never learn.
A teacher is supposed to facilitate the teaching and learning process not only when in class but all the time under normal circumstances. This is a situation that can be realised when there is general discipline in schools.
Teachers, learners, administrators and the community around, should exhibit maximum discipline. You cannot claim to enforce discipline when you are not disciplined yourself. Unfortunately a number of teachers have been involved in cases of great indiscipline in schools and school environment.
This is said to have been the ‘origin’ of stopping them from punishing students. Most of these teachers who behave this way are not trained properly to deal with children and the youth in general, when they are in a school environment.
Unfortunately, we still have very few qualified teachers at all levels. It is bad for example for a teacher to; severely beat up a student and to abuse a learner in any form. But teachers have been taken to courts to answer crimes related to; severely beating students and sexual assault.
However, such behaviours do not depict a typical trained teacher. A trained teacher is guided by certain professional ethics that does not allow him or her to act in such a way. This does not mean that some trained teachers don’t misbehave.
But whoever misbehaves is only guided by his inherent characters or is doing it under certain hidden influences. Leaving all these factors constant, punishment should be meted out if we are to restore discipline and consequent high performance in schools.
All we need is to give some teachers ‘refresher’ courses so that they know how to do it. Parents need to be shown the rationale of punishment in schools, so that we prepare our children for a meaningful life in future.