Corporal Punishment in Schools; By Safiya I. Dantiye


THE death of Yahaya Nuhu Aliyu, a 13-year-old JSS 2 student of Federal Government College (FGC), Kwali in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja allegedly caused by a teacher has sparked a debate on just how far a teacher could go in punishing a student?

According to reports, Yahaya collapsed after a teacher, Dorcas Gibson, beat him on the head with the iron handle of a bucket for failing to do his assignment.

Nuhu was said to have been sick for days and was not able to go to class until that fateful day Monday August 9, 2021.

Corporal punishment

The students of the school staged a protest over his death on Monday, thereby disrupting academic activities.

His picture and story was on social media too, urging people to demand for justice over his death.

However, the school management said he died of cerebral malaria and the police said it was investigating the matter.

Well, this is very tragic and while we leave the police to unravel the true cause of Yahaya’s death, we hope justice is done. There should be no cover up as people suspect happen in many cases in Nigeria, perhaps that is why the story and his picture was shared on social media platforms to draw people’s attention.

Corporal punishment has been discouraged in many schools, preferring counselling or another form of punishment, but apparently some still do it.

There used to be a Discipline Master in boy’s schools who flogged students, though with the coming of private schools, students are not beaten in those schools as in government schools.

Parents of students of private schools would challenge their children being beaten or even call the police or threaten to withdraw their children, so the schools must find another way of punishing errant students.

In any case, if teaching is an all-rounder; teaching and character moulding, teachers should know how to interact with every student or pupil, as the case may be and treat him or her accordingly.

The students are a trust to the school and the teachers by extension, so no matter what; they should not be severely beaten, let alone with harmful items like iron.

And this is not the first time. Over the years, there were stories of a student losing an eye due to beating by a teacher, and so on.

Even though there are lamentations of lack of discipline in some schools, but that does not mean teachers should go overboard in enforcing discipline in a manner to could lead to injuries and death.

There are other measures that students fear more than anything such as suspension and expulsion.

The fact is that some students are well-behaved at home but when they go to school, they become another thing, some even ‘ring leaders’ or errant students. So they are afraid to be suspended because they would disappoint their parents.

On the other hand, corporal punishment becomes only an issue if it happens in a formal school, because it happens in makarantar allo. In fact, anybody that has attended makarantar allo has a tale to tell. Though not necessarily as a punishment, but as a ‘culture’, as soon as there was a lull in the recitation or the children started chatting, the Malam would go round with his dorina (horsewhip) giving flipping whips. The severity however, depends on the temperament of the Malam.

But the ones that really got the corporal punishment were those put in mari (shackles) and beaten for offences such as stealing. This is encouraged by the parents.

Some ‘rehabilitation centres’ also carry out such punishments in order to wean the patients from drug addiction.

In some instances, parents carry out corporal punishment on their children and probably because they are the parents, not much notice is given to them.

If a parent can get away with it, a teacher who is supposed to be a professional definitely cannot.  Where fatality occurs, it all renders the exercise futile and regrettable.

Therefore caution should be exercised in meting out punishment, be it at school, at home and anywhere else.

But above all, there should be justice and school authorities should review their discipline methods from time to time and any teacher found wanting should be dealt with, before it is too late.


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