It is very likely Ghana May not achieve the Education For All (EFA) nor the Millennium Development Goals if serious effort is not put into ensuring that barriers to education are completely removed or addressed; thus unsafe school environment, existence of Corporal punishment among others. This was obvious in a discussion to strategize on the consideration of accelerating action towards the 2015 target granting that it is only 3 years away.
There are shocking incidences of devastating effects of violence including Corporal punishment on children especially girls in Ghana.
Corporal punishment is by its very nature, anti-human and ultimately an abusive practice that entrenches the idea that violence provides a solution to every problem in the classroom. The removal of corporal punishment and the elimination of other dehumanizing practices in our schools are necessary steps towards the development of a culture of human rights in our country.
The reality of the situation is that many educators face daily struggles in their school environment with issues of discipline. There is no doubt about the need for alternatives for corporal punishment. Many educators have found themselves in a position of not knowing what to do in the absence of corporal punishment.
These educators are not alone in their struggle; even those educators who are committed to this change sometimes find themselves in a difficult situation. If we are to have a positive culture of learning and teaching in our schools, the learning environment must be safe, orderly and conducive to learning. It is important to make a distinction between discipline and punishment.
Punishment is based on the belief that if children are made to suffer for doing wrong, they will not repeat their inappropriate behaviour. This approach according to researches has done untold damage to countless children, often resulting in feelings of alienation, entrenched patterns of anti-social behaviour and even acts of violence. It is important to make a distinction between discipline and punishment.
Too many governments on the one hand claim to support ending all forms of violence against children while on the other they fail to prohibit violence disguised as discipline or punishment. Some governments claim to have prohibited corporal punishment but scrutiny of the law shows otherwise.
Realizing that progress is not being made, GNECC ActionAid-Ghana and Songtaba recommends stronger advocacy including legal advocacy. This is not to compromise indiscipline in the schools nor homes but to promote Positive Discipline by introducing alternatives to corporal punishment which we call Positive Discipline Pack for use in schools.
This pack contains ideas on alternative forms of discipline that may be applied in all settings.Educators are given the opportunity to reflect on their own approaches to discipline in order to identify what they are getting right and where they perceive they still need to develop their approach. Educators are not expected to follow the same approach and to adopt the identical measures. There is room within the practice of positive discipline for individuality and creativity.
Of course, the real challenge lies in the implementation and maintenance of disciplinary measures and procedures that uphold order in schools with understanding and compassion.
Positive Discipline ( PD) is a discipline model used by schools that focuses on the positive points of behaviour, based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviours.
You can teach and reinforce the good behaviours while weaning the bad behaviours without hurting the child verbally or physically. People engaging in positive discipline are not ignoring problems. Rather, they are actively involved in helping their child learn how to handle situations more appropriately while remaining calm, friendly and respectful to the children themselves.
Positive discipline includes a number of different techniques that, used in combination, can lead to a more effective way to manage groups of pupils/students.
GNECC, ActionAid and partners are not recommending Positive Discipline in a vacuum.A focus group discussion held within some selected Junior and Senior High schools in Accra has revealed that more than 70% of the of the pupils /students prefer Alternative forms of discipline to Corporal Punishment and this is indicative that most of them are aware of their rights but could not speak out for fear of being expelled from school. This leaves schools with the responsibility of identifying and implementing alternative disciplinary practices and procedures.
“Progress towards abolishing corporal punishment is being made, but millions of the world’s children still suffer from humiliating acts of violence and these violations of their rights as human beings can have serious lifelong effects. Violence begets violence and we shall reap a whirlwind.
Children can be disciplined without violence that instills fear and misery ….If we really want a peaceful and compassionate world, we need to build communities of trust where children are respected, where home and school are safe places to be and where discipline is taught by example.” (Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, 2006).
Compliance with international human rights law; the convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments-requires that states prohibit by law all corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the home.There has been accelerating progress towards law reform in Ghana as in other Africa regions, but the pace of reform is still slow. A UNICEF statistical review of disciplinary practices published in 2010 found high percentage of children experiencing physical or psychological violence with a prevalence of 90% in Ghana.