By Peter Sibon
KUCHING: The concept “spare the rod, respect the child” cannot be used in Malaysian schools because it is not only impractical but could also create chaos.
Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU) president William Ghani Bina (picture) said in fact the concept should not be used in Western schools as well if one were to look at the number of shooting and other violent incidents happening in western countries in recent times.
He told Eastern Times yesterday that caning and other corporal punishment should be seen as a deterrent and not humiliation. In the same vein, caning should be viewed as a form of education and not punishment per se.
Things will go haywire
“Just look at the number of shooting cases in some Western schools. If we give in to the students and allow them to do what they want in school, things will go haywire.
“It would be different, however, if the children were already well-disciplined by their parents at home.
“But that is seldom the case as most parents leave their children to be disciplined and educated by their teachers,” he explained.
Ghani said this when asked to comment on the stand taken by educationist and child rights expert Professor Dr Junith Ennew.
Ennew, who is a research associate of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, had shared her thoughts on caning and respect for children with a national daily recently.
According to Ennew, children, regardless of cultural and geographical differences, responded best to “respect, praise and encouragement”.
“Corporal punishment is used because teachers have a strong authority over children and parents who are reluctant to intervene in school matters and may even encourage teachers to punish their children to make them learn or behave better,” she noted.
“Little do teachers realise that every time the cane is used to punish a child, the full weight of the teachers’ power and also of the State, parents and community is brought to bear on a single child”.
She added that when children were caned and shamed by their teachers, they would feel the pain now and carry the emotional scars for life.
“Negative discipline also leads to a future of continued violence. Hitting a child teaches him or her that violence is acceptable, that it is okay for the strong to hit and hurt the weak,” she explained.
“Schools should be made for children, not children made to fit into schools,” she added.
Ghani explained that current policy permitted caning to be carried out if students were caught stealing, fighting, smoking or disrespecting their teachers.
“How can we allow such students off the hook? Of course we need to punish them. We need to punish them and caned them so that they will change and become better persons.
“All these must not be seen merely as punishment but educating them,” he argued.
Ghani said even the Malays have a saying which goes like this - “Sayangkan isteri tingal-tingalkan, sayangkan anak, tangan-tangankan’. It loosely translates to mean “no matter how much a man loves his wife, he still needs to work, and if a man loves his children, he still has to discipline them (including punishing them)”.
Beyond the limits
“We are thankful that most parents in Sarawak won’t mind us caning their children if they know that their children had gone beyond the limits,” he said.
Ghani said canings in schools were well defined and could only be executed by headmasters/principals, discipline teachers or teachers who had been given written authority to do so. Previously, teachers were given the absolute right to even slap naughty students.
Presently, only male students were allowed to be caned on both their palms and buttocks.
Female students are spared the rod. Instead they have to do community work like cleaning toilets and sweeping.
“Being a teacher nowadays is more challenging as we are facing an increasing number of students where both their parents are working and leaving their children entirely to the teachers,” he said.