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Caning is a no no, but we need behaviour change campaign for parents

 A pupil being caned by a teacher. [Courtesy]

Indiscipline in schools is just what students see on screens.

Many teachers find it very difficult to discipline students because of several reasons: Child Rights, Harassment Codes and parents who defend their children from punishment without their consent.

Since the death of a cane is considered primitive and barbaric, punishing children is now effected using soft mechanisms most of which place emphasis on making the student understand why punishment is necessary. In the past few weeks, I have been privileged to interact with teachers, parents and students. The purpose was to investigate forms of discipline prevalent in schools. In addition, examine whether the much-promoted positive discipline works for the three categories.

The findings, though not generalizable, show that students in high-performing schools tend to strictly follow school rules and respect teachers much more than would be the case in less-performing schools. The motivation for student self-discipline and respect to teachers is the reward in being "a passing school."

Schools that students consider performing have to manage indiscipline. Students admitted to schools they perceive as less performing, even when the contrary is true, are likely to feel aggrieved either by the teachers, fellow students or other staff in situations that positive-minded students will not find offending. Many teachers prefer to let go mistakes that, were it in their powers, they would correct. It is much more difficult for male teachers if they have to punish a female student. Misinterpretations and possible false accusations might arise something that teachers fear, and justifiably so.

Even more, some teachers fear the reaction of parents. Some parents walk into school like hungry lions. They will maul teachers before students. It does not help that in some incidents school management will put a teacher in the docket for self-defence against a student who feels somewhat victorious. When a teacher is grilled before a parent and before a student the outcome is obvious. The teacher will do anything but see a mistake in a student. After all, some parents believe their children are the most disciplined.

What is the cause of student indiscipline? Besides, background factors such as family unity, positive support at tender age or lack of these, students, particularly teenagers take in so much of what they see on screens. The conduct of leaders has a massive impact on teenagers - most of whom will be in secondary schools, than we ordinarily appreciate. Psychology studies indicate that this is an age where explanations of any kind account for just about 30 per cent of what teenagers belief and internalize. About 70 per cent of what they belief and internalize is what they observe.

The adoption of President or another political title in school is not by accident. Children, prefects for instance, act like the boss they see on screen. There is so much political events in the past two year for instance, that will shape the kind of students will belief and internalize.

Students, teenagers in particular, are at a age for deviance. Political deviance, manipulation, outright lies and masks of "Mr Nice, Mr Truth" make most sense to teenagers. Lest we forget, hundreds of schools were burnt in recent years to a point media gave blackout to such incidents.

We won't go back to caning students nor easily convince teachers carry risks they can avoid. The one option left is to carry out behavior change campaigns among parents.

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