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Teachers who beat children need therapy

BLOGS

The teachers of yore were something else, something like, beastly. I have often thought about the relationship they forged with students, and sometimes I cannot work out who to feel sorry for between them, and the students under their care. As often, I have decided to blame the person who gave them the license to kill - the colonizer.

Back then, school was synonymous with violence. It was labour camp per excellence. Every problem had one answer, violence. A student is beaten by another student, he is beaten by the teacher for good measure. A child falls - the teacher beats them for being reckless. A child fails exams - they are beaten for not being lucky to have an academic brain. If a child is late for school - the teacher beats them without first finding out the reason.

Unreasonable

A child falls ill and misses school, a teacher beats them, I guess for choosing not to infect other students. The beating was a one size fits all, like the famed muarubaini tree that is rumoured to heal 40 health conditions. The beating was creative, and referring to any kind of beating as creative makes me feel like a sadist, but I am not - it is for lack of a better descriptive word. We had this teacher who would beat the bottom of our feet and another one of the calf. We had others who loved to test the strength of our knuckles against rulers. I cringe at such memories. Others were famed for double slaps. Then there were those who trapped students' upper bodies in a seat, then repeatedly hitting the buttocks.

Sometimes, when I am in a good mood, I make excuses for those teachers, for they were products of colonial masters, and colonial masters only understood one language; violence. They were taught that respect is demanded, violently.

The teachers were also children of war, dealing with the trauma of seeing their parents beaten and humiliated, killed, and maimed. Trauma is a strange thing sometimes, like when it decides to beget trauma. I could excuse teachers of our time, but I cannot excuse teachers of today who are still serving the same abuse. My neighbour's child, among others, was sent home because of school fees arrears. That may not sound strange, because free education is a fallacy - what was upsetting was that, the eight-year-old was first beaten, then sent home in torrential rains.

First, you are punishing a child for his parent's mistake, and then you send them home in unfriendly weather. Inhumane. The same neighbour had one of her children sick, and when I met her, she was in a panic on behalf of the son, because, as she put it, the teacher would beat him for missing school. So she took time off work to go to the school and inform the teacher. I do not know why she could not just call, but I suspect the teacher does not encourage calls from parents.

We have evolved

The same week, one of my daughters, in a different school, was unwell, enough to miss school for a couple of days. The only reason I Whatsapp'd the class teacher, one we freely chat about our children, whenever, was because I did not want the teacher to worry why my daughter was absent. Not because she would beat her for missing school.

This school, the one with teachers who have clearly refused to evolve - performs poorest in the locality. One would think the military-type of environment they have would bear good results, but what it has is children going to school in the dark, spending the whole day walking on eggshells, too scared to actually absorb anything taught.

I once asked a parent from the same school why they cannot protest to the education office, 'Where would we even start? Our children would be punished for it.' From where I am sitting, the children are already being punished, for something they actually haven't done.

I do not know what worse punishment they would receive, but I know I would rather take a chance, that things will get better if I protest.

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