Let us fully end corporal punishment in schools

International Day of The African Child

Learners from schools in Uasin Gishu County march in Eldoret town on Friday to mark the International Day of The African Child.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

As we commemorate this year’s Day of the African Child under the theme “Education for All Children in Africa: The Time is Now,” I reflect on my journey from a practitioner of corporal punishment to an advocate of positive discipline. My transformation underscores the urgent need for safety and respect in our schools.

Years ago, as a new teacher in a primary school, I believed that corporal punishment was an effective way to maintain discipline. However, I soon observed the fear and anxiety it instilled in my pupils. They were not learning; they were scared. This realization led me to seek alternative methods, eventually embracing the principles of positive discipline.

According to the World Health Organization, corporal punishment is linked to a range of negative outcomes for children, including impaired cognitive and socio-emotional development, poor educational performance and increased aggression, and perpetration of violence. Fear-based discipline stifles creativity and curiosity, which are essential elements for academic success. When students are preoccupied with avoiding punishment, they are less likely to take risks in their learning. At the same time, when children experience violence as discipline, they may see it as an acceptable way to solve conflicts, perpetuating a cycle of violence beyond the classroom.

Responsible

Positive discipline teaches young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful community members. It involves setting clear expectations, providing positive reinforcement, and using constructive consequences for misbehaviour.

Studies show that positive discipline techniques promote a more positive school environment, enhance teacher-student relationships, and lead to better behavioural and academic outcomes.

In Nairobi, Tushinde Children’s Trust, which supports vulnerable children, has adopted a zero-tolerance stance on corporal punishment in partner schools, yielding positive results. Teachers at Mawewa School in Mathare, for example, reported a significant decrease in behavioural issues, and students were more engaged and enthusiastic about learning. The school has become a model for others.

Educators have a responsibility to protect children and promote their well-being. By adopting positive discipline, teachers can help students develop self-discipline and respect for others.

I urge my fellow educators to reflect on their disciplinary methods and embrace positive discipline. It may require a shift in mindset and practice, but the rewards are worth it. Kenyan parents, your support is vital. Encourage and model positive discipline at home. Collaborate with teachers to create a consistent and nurturing environments for your children.


As we celebrate the Day of the African Child, let's commit to ending corporal punishment in our schools. Let us envision a future where every child can learn in a safe, nurturing, and positive environment. Together, we can create a brighter, safer future for all Kenyan children.

Mr Omwa, a Chevening Scholar, is a lecturer at Seme Teachers College. [email protected].