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Corporal punishment : The effects on school-going children

  • By Sahana Rajan

The degree of pain does not matter- what counts is the use of a method where punishment is meted out to discipline the child. Even the act of pushing and shoving in retribution are cases of corporal punishment for school-going children.

There are three types of corporal punishment: parental, school, and judicial. Parental corporal punishment is a case within the family setup where in the children are punished by parents for their conduct, or the lack of it.

School corporal punishment refers to the practice of punishment dished out within the confines of schools to discipline their pupils, be it the school authorities as a whole, or individuals like teachers or principal.Lastly, judicial corporal punishment is force used on criminals - these are either implemented by prison authorities or by staff members directly.

By law, corporal punishment is an offense in over 40 countries today. In schools, corporal punishment has been outlawed in Kenya, Canada, most of Europe, and South Africa.

Medical studies have suggested that cases of corporal punishment work through suppression of the punished than carefully resolving the issues of indiscipline. The prime impact of the corporal punishment on school-going children is the embarrassment and humiliation faced by the child, leading to low self-esteem and increased propensity of being bullied by other children. Moreover, emotionally, these children tend to feel isolated and their transformation into adulthood is often wrought with difficulties in forming healthy relationships.

It has been found that what used to be low-grade slapping often becomes spanking, ending up being beaten as the child grows up. The child thinks of such violence as being ‘a norm’ and may also feel that infliction of pain on his/her own child or another being is justified as they themselves had been through such violence in their childhood; especially, the idea that the child is corporally punished for their own welfare leads to a twisted morality in adults, who might indulge in sadism or masochism.

In order for there to be a change in outlook and reduction of corporal punishment, legal protection must be strengthened for the well-being of children. The teachers would have to be trained to use nonviolent methods to deal with the improper conduct on the part of the child.

As a part of teacher's training, it is imperative that a subject is included in their learning process by which the teachers may dwell upon the act of dialogue to help the child express his/her worries that might be the root cause of their rebellion.

Parents of the child and fellow classmates/schoolmates and other teachers can effectively form a team to deal with the student calmly and with respect. Counselors, if required, may be called upon for help.

It is also critical that children are taught to raise their voice and inform cases of maltreatment to friends/teacher/authorities or parents to ensure that their confidence is not shattered leading to subsequent emotional dysfunction.

Apart from teachers’ training and awareness among children, public awareness programs will also help in reducing cases of household corporal punishment which imprint a long-lasting mark in the psyche of a child, thus scarring their entire life.


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