Ebele Joyce Egwunyenga
Keywords: Corporal punishment; discipline; control; secondary school
History has generally shown that many societies have become characterized by political, religious, industrial, ethnic and personal disputes which have often been settled after violence. This culture, in the words of Chianu (2001), “has gradually crept into the school system…. Often students react violently against teachers, teachers in turn vent their frustration on students-the innocent and the guilty alike”. For the school system to achieve its desired goals discipline must be properly enforced. This has often been done by the adoption of two major techniques, namely “reward” and “punishment”.
The focus of this study is the use of punishment to instill discipline in students of secondary schools. Punishment is an aversive stimulus, whereby an unpleasant painful experience is applied in order to discourage a given type of unacceptable behaviour. It is a “traditional technique of disciplinary control which is considered a necessary corrective measure” (Nwankwo et al, 1987). It is designed to point out the teacher’s disapproval and to deal with repeated misbehaviour capable of threatening the success of the teaching-learning process. Saunders (2003) outlined the following as some common punishment practices in schools – detention with some task, withdrawal of privileges, isolation or exclusion and tidying up classrooms and picking of papers from the play ground. Others are mental punishment such as personal criticism, ridicule and sarcasm (Cohen and Lawrence, 1981) and verbal form which includes order to cease, reprimand, threat (Kyriacon, 1995). Suspension and expulsion from school are added forms of punishment.
Besides the above is physical punishment, commonly known as corporal punishment. Greydanus (1992) sees this as the intentional application of physical pain as a method of changing behaviour. It has been an accepted method of promoting good behaviour and instilling notions of responsibility and decorum into the mischievous heads of school children (Chianu, 2001). Corporal punishment includes a wide variety
of methods such as hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pinching, kneeling, use of various objects (wooden, paddles, belts, sticks and cane), painful body postures, knocking on the head, use of excessive exercise drills and prevention of urine and/or stool elimination etc. In many parts of the world, corporal punishment in school has always raised very heated debate. In the United States and many parts of Europe, many organizations and at different levels have fought to abolish its use (Frazier 1990) and (Poole 1991).
In Nigeria, according to Okoh and Alvin (1983), corporal punishment has always been a controversial issue and always difficult to discuss rationally and objectively. Ndubisi and Uka (1981) hold that some lay critics argue that pupils would master their subjects more effectively if teachers gave them doses of corporal punishment and that education has fallen in standard because corporal punishment is no longer used on erring pupils to force them to be studious. Contrary to these views, many educationists have argued that corporal punishment has shock and dehumanizing value (Kyricon, 1995) and capable of making the learning environment a punitive place (Pieters, 2000). Ndubisi and Uka (1981) believe that fear of corporal punishment inhibits creativity in students, does not necessarily change the underlying wish to misbehave, and damages teacher/student relationship. Saunders (2003) and Purehead (2003) add that children used to corporal punishment experience psychological harm because they become an endless cycle. Psychological problems which have been associated with corporal punishment according to Rohner (1991), Donnely and Straus (1994) include depression, anxiety, aggression, inferiority complex, withdrawal syndrome and impaired self concept. Brand (2004) has argued that effective discipline does not rely upon external application of consequences designed to elicit compliance; that when desire drives activity, discipline comes from within; and that when good judgment is valued over blind obedience, the students develop a self-dedication that allows them to forgo short-term pleasures in the pursuit of loftier goals.
1. What type of punishment is frequently used in secondary schools?
2. Does corporal punishment enforce effective discipline in secondary schools?
The four point scale questionnaire was weighted 4,3,2 and 1 respectively. Accordingly, simple percentage/ranking and meanscores were employed to answer the questions on frequency of use and effectiveness while the testing of hypothesis on the views of principals of public and private schools was done by means of Z-test statistics.
Research Question 1:
Table 1: Forms of Punishment frequently used in Secondary Schools.
Source: Field work
+ = Effective, – = Not effective, * = Most frequently used
The responses of the 515 principals with regard to the forms of punishment used in secondary schools are presented in table 1. These were actually calibrated on the 4 point-Likert Scale of Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree. But for the purpose of answering research question 1, strongly agree and agree were collapsed as well as strongly disagree and disagree. It assumed that any option that scored 50% and above agreeing is frequently used while the highest of all which ranked 1st is the most frequently used. Arising from the above approach, 59% agreed for the use reprimand, 81.40% for corporal punishment, 74.7% for sweeping, 62.3% for repairing damaged property, 77.3% for suspension, 60.4% for expulsion, and 79.4% for grass cutting. In other words, all forms with 50% and above are frequently used. The highest percentage is that of corporal punishment ranking 1st.
It therefore follows that corporal punishment is the form of punishment that is most frequently used in the secondary schools of Delta State.
Research Question 2
Table 2: Percentage rating of the effectiveness of corporal punishment in disciplinary control in secondary schools.
Source: Field Work
Table 2 presents the responses of all the principals sampled on the effectiveness of corporal punishment in schools, indicating only three as effective. These are flogging, painful body posture and kneeing down which had percentage scores of 54.95%, 51.07% and 57.28% respectively. They are considered effective for scoring above 50%.the principals rated others not effective by reason of percentage scores below 50%. In other words, only very few forms of corporal punishment are effective. Since majority of the forms are not effective, one can clearly say that corporal punishment is not effective in disciplinary control in secondary schools.
Table 3: Summary table of Z – test analysis showing the use of corporal punishment in public and private secondary schools.
The result of a test of difference in the views of public and private secondary school principals is shown in table 3. The decision is that their views are significantly different as the calculated z value is 7.06 which is greater than the critical value of 1.96. The hypothesis of no difference in views is hereby rejected.
that are frequently used in secondary schools. Seven out of the seventeen suggested forms were said to be frequently used. These include reprimand, corporal punishment, sweeping, repairing damaged property, suspension, expulsion, and grassing cutting. But the form that has been established as most frequently used is corporal punishment. This could be because of the notion that it is a “traditional technique for disciplinary control which is considered necessary corrective measure” as was put forward by Nwankwo et al (1987).
However, on the forms of corporal punishment that are effective in disciplinary control; the study identified three out of eleven to include flogging, painful body posture and kneeling down. If only three out of eleven are effective, it means that corporal punishment is not generally seen as effective means of disciplinary control perhaps because people like Kyricon (1995), Pieters (2000) Saunders (2003) and Purehead (2003) warned about the various harms corporal punishment could cause the child. This could also explain why private secondary schools in Delta State don’t use it as much as the public secondary schools as their objective in the first place is to attract as many students as possible and not to scare them away, because the establishment of these schools is profit driven.
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