BEATING BETWEEN REFORMATION AND DEFORMATION
— Sanni Kay Yusuf
Discussing a crucial matter with the parent of one of our madrasah students one day. He opened up that his daughter was SS. I didn’t notice because the girl’s look and disposition weren’t suggestive of such. Frankly, I registered my displeasure to the man for not opening up ab initio. “What if I had punished her against her health status?” I protested. “I knew you wouldn’t. And the girl usually tells us how soft your punishment strategies are. But for that, I would have told you a long time ago,” he replied.
The above is a clear indication that this piece isn’t borne out of the author’s affection for beating, but a mere opinion subject to criticism.
I doubt if the proponents of “Don’t beat” are doing parents, the society – or even the children – any good. I attended a seminar where one of the speakers spent almost half an hour condemning beating. But the theories he used to drive home his opinion weren’t local but foreign. He tried domesticating them but were practically off point. I tried applying it on my kids, but it never stood the test of time.
Kids are provocatively stubborn, you know. They are naturally so – not out of their will. My two-year old baby picked up her mum’s laptop one day, raised it up the sky and hit it on the floor. Opening it, the screen had become entirely damaged and repairing it would apparently gulp a huge sum. As pained as we were, the boy only got scolded for the deed. “He is a small boy,” so was my consoling thought.
A few weeks down the line, the boy, in my presence, opened up the wardrobe where the yet-to-be-repaired laptop was kept, brought it out, raised it higher than he had sometime done and had it hit broken on the bed. “What!” I said shockingly. Without too much in too little, I drew him closer, got his two hands folded to my left palm and gave him a hot beat on his buttocks. He cried. Not even his 10-year old elder would receive such without a stormy rain from his eyes. Since then, the troubled laptop had known peace, courtesy of the effective power for beating.
Punishment does not imply beating, flogging or caning. It is more encompassing than that. But you can’t take it away from the concept. It’s an integral part of it. If that is being used abroad, we can also see the side effects in their children. That it works for them over there, for instance, doesn’t mean it will work for us here. They are them, we are us!
What we should rather focus is how best to explore it. We should be talking about Reformative punishments, not Deformative. We should be stressing the fact that punishment isn’t to deform, but to reform. Reformative beating therefore is one with the least possible lashes of the cane on the palm. There is an international school in Nigeria where there policy is that a student should not be beaten more than three lashes of the cane on the hand he doesn’t use to write. Deformative beating, on the other hand, is where a child is indiscriminately flogged to the extent that injuries (internal and/or external) are incurred. This includes beating on the head and using anything as tool to spank the erring child. Teachers, parents and elders who beat deformatively – rather than reformatively – should be criminalized.
The regime of “Don’t beat”, especially in our schools, has further energized students to display the heights of indiscipline. When a student is scared with a cane, and he tells the teacher you know you have no right to beat me, that signals nothing but a time bomb of an imminent moral decadence. Today – unlike in the days of yore – students stand tall against their teachers, because they know they can’t be beaten. Any teacher who does that gets reported and subsequently reprimanded by the authority. The case is worse in private schools where parents roar at teachers and the authority is incapacitated because they will not want to lose the student. Tales of parents slapping teachers in return abound.
But truth be told, some cheaters – who parade themselves as teachers – are rather vampirous. They beat students in a manner they may never beat their own kids. They make students sustain lifetime injuries. Vampires like that should be shown the way out of the system, I so suggest.