School Policy on Disciplinary Measures: A Necessity

This scene has been a recurring
one. My worry is that it would almost always play out the same way.

A parent storms into the office of a headmistress or principal of a school with a child who has been brutalised by a teacher. It would be obvious that the teacher preferred cultural disciplinary approaches to the improved motivational principles and methods of achieving the desired behavioural change in the pupil or student. The ensuing events usually follow the under-listed pattern.

  1. The school head would immediately express regret that the teacher failed to comply with the directive by the school management that such practices are not allowed in the school.
  2. The teacher, if contacted would immediately exaggerate the child’s offence in self-defence.
  3. In some cases, the teacher may be required to apologise to the parents of the child.
  4. Then an apology would be conveyed on behalf of the school management to the parent whose child has been brutalised.
  5. On most of such occasions, the school management would feel obliged to assure the parent that such a thing would not be repeated.
  6. My observation in my environment is that the assurance that the incidence would not recur has, on most occasions, proved to be mere diplomacy.
  7. Parents who understand well the rudiments of education and are also passionate about effective parenting are almost always seen complaining about such issues. Someone shared a story with me recently about how a parent moved her child to another school as a result of her dissatisfaction with a school’s disciplinary approach.

Therefore, I have arrived at the conclusion that the reasons for this endless vicious cycle are essentially two folds. It is either the school management lacks the knowledge and conviction on the proper standards of acceptable disciplinary measures, or they lack the willpower to set up policies and the required managerial structure for teachers’ training and performance monitoring.

My heart bleeds each time I meet a school manager who believes that children should be coerced into obedience through flogging and all sorts of corporal punishment. One can imagine how awful the synergistic output of such a manager and a team of teachers who are already culturally disposed to such inferior approaches would be. No wonder such schools usually engage in all sorts of futile struggles to get their ‘stubborn’ children to be disciplined enough to engage in required educational activities. The exhaustion suffered by teachers in such schools is usually not just from the approved learning activities with students. Most times, a lot of time and energy is spent punishing students. Reliance on this wrong method may reach a point where prefects and other senior students are drafted into the squad to flog and punish other students.

I dare say that schools that operate in the environment described in the preceding paragraph would raise students whose actions are driven by force and threats instead of love, good conscience and sound reasoning. Mediocre professionals and daredevil politicians of our time are glaring examples of the products of such a faulty system. Training and re-training of the entire staff of such a school would be one of the vital solutions to such a confusing atmosphere.

Schools that operate in a legal environment like ours where corporal punishment has not been prohibited in schools should, as matter of urgency, make policy statements on the allowable disciplinary measures. It is wrong for any school to allow teachers the discretionary right to apply all sorts of punishment on students. It is not every teacher that has the right psychological balance to apply this discretion with moderation. It is also wrong for any school to approach this issue by merely appealing to the consciences of the teachers to handle the students with mercy.

School policy on disciplinary measures  should be specific, clearly stated, communicated and properly monitored for due enforcement. It needs not necessarily allow flogging and other corporal punishment at all. Until there is a legislative prohibition, schools that still want to allow a stroke or two should state so in their policy statement on discipline. Teachers should be trained and re-trained to acquire the necessary discipline and skills for full compliance. The training should be such that will equip the school administrators with the knowledge and skill to provide the right atmosphere and discipline stimulants. It should also include the avoidable pollutants to the right atmosphere of discipline. The school management should set up structures to monitor compliance with the policy. New teachers should be properly trained before they are allowed to interact with students.

-Uchenna N. Nduka

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