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Child Abuse in Schools
From: John Wondoh | johnwondoh@yahoo.com          Published On: October 22, 2012, 05:25 GMT
 
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Child Abuse in Schools
Education is of enormous importance to most Ghanaians as it is seen as a gateway out of poverty or basically a gateway to better living conditions. Due to this, most parents do all they can to ensure that their children gain education.

Education in Ghana can be considered to be free even up to the tertiary level, thus making education readily available to most Ghanaians. The Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme introduced in 1995 promised free basic education by 2005. Unfortunately this target was not attained due to the fact that it did not abolish all forms of fees and could not induce a significant reduction in the indirect cost associated with schooling.

It however reduced the cost of basic education in Ghana, thus making education more available to Ghanaians. Senior high schools students, if they are boarders, are only required to pay for their feeding, PTA (Parent Teacher Association) dues and other user fees. Also in tertiary institutions, the only monetary requirements of the students are the Academic Facility User Fee and accommodation fees.

Due to the low income level of most Ghanaians, these fees are unbearable to many parents and guardians. The government of Ghana however continues to pump more money into education as a measure to eradicate illiteracy and poverty. Compared to other African countries, Ghana invests more in education.

Although, Ghana takes much pride in the education of her citizens, some of the approaches in this process might be considered as unethical as they end up leaving a negative impact on the learned Ghanaian. Unfortunately these practices among educators seem to go unnoticed by the government and stakeholders hence nothing seems to be done to minimize such misconduct.

One issue worth discussing is the methods used by Ghanaian educators to instill discipline in educational institutions. Learning is defined as acquiring knowledge or developing the ability (skills) to perform new behaviors. Learning occurs in every stage of human development but it is more pronounced at the early stages. At this stage of development, children learn to distinguish between right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is improper and carry this with them for the rest of their lives.

This knowledge is acquired by emulating adults and by the things these children see, hear or experience. Today, children spend most of their time in school because parents have to work extra hard due to economic crisis. This has resulted in parents spending insufficient time with their children. Parents tend to leave the responsibility of nurturing their children to the professionals in the schools. Unfortunately, these professionals on most occasions end up causing more harm than good.

Disciplinary actions of teachers on pupils often tend to have adverse physical, mental and emotional effects on the pupils. Educators should be able to distinguish between what child abuse is and what punishment is. Child abuse is defined as maltreatment of a child by a parent, guardian, or other adult responsible for his or her welfare, e.g. physical violence, neglect, sexual assault, or emotional cruelty.

Two examples of inappropriate punishments in schools are as follows; a student comes late to school and is made to kneel outside the classroom for hours as a punishment or a student scores a low mark in a test and receives six lashes to make him learn harder. These actions obviously are examples of child abuse and are not the right methods of instilling discipline in the student. They do not result in any positive improvement in the childís attitude or make the child smarter as well.

This type of child abuse is termed as physical abuse. This is deliberately using force against a child in such a way that the child is either injured or is at risk of being injured. The effects of this type of abuse may be instantaneous or long term.

Another scenario of child abuse in schools is when a teacher continually humiliates some students publicly usually because these students do not perform as the other students. This form of abuse is termed emotional abuse or cruelty.

Emotional abuse causes impairment to the child's self-esteem. It includes acts that may result in, or place a child at risk of serious behavioral, emotional or mental health problems. It is expected of professional educators to know these facts and not in any way give special treatment to some students based on their academic performance.

Unfortunately this is not the case in most schools; students with bad scores are branded as lazy students without any other possible contributing factors being considered. There are a number of factors that can cause a student to perform poorly academically which include dyslexia, inability to properly understand examination questions, nervousness under examination conditions and so on.

The duty of the teacher is not only to teach but also to help identify certain problems that students may be facing and find pragmatic solutions to such problems. A careful study of these factors that might be affecting students can lead to much more logical solutions to the studentsí academic problems.

Another issue of interest in school is the fact that some teachers take advantage of students sexually. This can take the form of fondling, making a child touch the abusive individual sexually or be touched sexually, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, or involving a child in prostitution or child pornography.

These girls and sometimes boys that are being abused are usually below eighteen (18) years and this therefore makes abusing them sexually with or without their consent a very serious crime as they are seen by the law as minors. Some teachers however ignore some of the consequences. Usually, this is as a result of lack of self-control and sometimes strong affection for children or teenagers as in the case of pedophiles.

Considering the possible causes of these misconducts among teachers, it would be realised that the causes usually originate from the training these teachers undergo. Inadequate training results in teachers not having the prerequisite skills to properly handle students. Understanding child psychology and behavioural patterns are very essential skills required by teachers to ensure the appropriate upbringing of a child.

Thus the course structure of teacher training colleges and other institutions offering education educational programmes should incorporate such courses that would enable teachers have a firm grip on some of these important skills to enable them understand and handle children properly. However, this might not completely solve our problems of child abuse in schools.

The issue of using untrained teachers in schools requires very serious attention. Whereas trained teachers may not have all the crucial skills required to properly raise children, most untrained teachers hardly have any skill at all. The use of untrained teachers mainly is as a result of lack of teachers in the educational sectors thus resulting in the need for supplementary teachers. Therefore, the need for untrained teachers cannot be over emphasised.

However, the upbringing of children is very critical to national growth and development and therefore every necessary means of raising children up in the right way should be implemented. Thus the need for untrained teachers to go through some sort of training before being posted to schools and subsequent training while working as teachers to help equip them with the skills needed.

Nevertheless, these are not enough to ensure that the future leaders of our nation are in good hands. Lack of motivation of teachers may as well result in child abuse and attitudes of teachers that might affect the lives of children negatively. It is normal if people want to be motivated or appreciated even in doing their duties.

If teachers do not receive enough income in order to meet their needs, they might tend to put their frustrations on students, influencing them unconstructively. Thus, it is expedient that sufficient income and other incentives be provided to ensure that teachers are satisfied and their well being been taken care of.

Lack of self-control is another issue that is worth noting. Unlike the other issues already considered, self-control is a personal character of an individual and therefore it becomes very difficult to quantify or estimate the amount of self-control a person has before he is recruited into the teaching field.

Self-control is the ability for one to control his or her behaviour, thus if teachers are unable to put their behaviour under control, then they may tend to behave in unacceptable ways. This may result in child molesting among others. Teachers therefore should try as much as possible to put their behaviour in check to ensure a safe environment for teaching and learning. This would ensure that students are out of harmís way and teachers do not break the laws of the nation.

These are some of the problems facing Ghanaian education, their causes and some suggested solutions to these problems. However, these problems are not limited only to Ghana but other countries may have similar problems and as such these issues should be addressed to ensure healthy development of the students.


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