A Choice Between Human Rights and Enforcement of Corporal Punishment

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Undoubtedly, education and good upbringing of a child are vital to the successful future of the child. The important Red Indian`s proverb, which says “when children are young, give them roots, when they are older, give them wings to fly“ might appear contradictory on the source, but deeply, it carries a very powerful meaning. When a child is given a root, it helps them know where their home is; the wings to fly, help the child to not only fly away but equally exercise what they have been taught. Ironically, the wings help the child to know where their root is and come back to the root, no matter how far or difficult the journey of life might be. In other words, a well-trained child will know how to handle difficult situations in life; more than that, the child will be able to avoid problems including making wrong choices and decisions in life. Having bad companies and committing illegal and wrongful acts both belong to wrong choices in one`s life.

The question is: How best can we give our children roots? The approach differs from individuals, societies and time. Years ago, it was a norm to give children a root by way of the disciplinary measures, which included, giving them corporal punishments. To many, some degree of sanity and discipline was achieved through this method. Children could take good care of their lives; educational results (academics and social) were meticulous. Children looked up to their elders and parents as their source of inspiration and knowledge. There was a clear hierarchy between parents and their children. More than that, parents were meant to live up to their societal norms and expectations. For the sake of clarity, giving a child a corporal punishment does not necessarily mean subjecting them to barbaric acts. Recently, a Headmaster in Tanzania caused some uproar after he, as a punishment, locked two kids in a cupboard for two hours. When the boys were released, one of them started foaming from his mouth. He was later confirmed dead at the health centre. In as much as parents do send their children to school to acquire roots, the clear death of their beloved children is definitely not part of the roots. This act must be condemned in totality. The law enforcement agents should arrest the Headteacher and punish him for the unlawful act he has committed. However, regardless, more often than not, some people look back nostalgically to that period when children were made to undergo disciplinary rules aimed at cultivating roots in their lives.

However, our recent democracy, which gave birth to the human rights, came with another method of planting  roots in the lives of our children. It has now, become a taboo, in most societies, to exercise any kind of physical punishment on a child. Such an approach is termed child abuse. The independence and sometimes, self-determination of children become central in the lives of children. Ironically, some have argued, however, that presently, the same supposedly independent-minded children are made lazier and more dependent on their parents (especially in the area of financial security and stability).   Backing up their stand, the group insists that parents have recently changed their social position from guidance and councillors to friends of their children. Often, it is not clear who will have to give instructions or directions and whether the children will even accept the instructions from the parents. The gradual change of social roles has very important effects on the way children are brought up. While one group of thought believes that the imbibement of democratic principles gives more roots and wings to children. Others believe just the opposite.

Looking at the African situations, how best can we train our children to be the future disciplined African leaders?