Written by Lynne Hambury (South Africa) (Originally published on May 2, 2014)
Trez Hota Nursery school is one of many nursery schools situated in Bahari Beach, Dar es Salaam. Children from the age of just a few months up to 7 years old attend the school. There are three classrooms – one for babies, another for toddlers and the third for older children who fall between the ages of 5 and 6 years. Each class has between 8 to 16 children.
At the entrance to the school, a neat array of tiny shoes line the wall – A sight that welcomes guests right away. Once inside one is greeted with a torrent of little hands, and hugs are freely shared with huge smiles yelling ‘Teacher!’. These kids are definitely not camera-shy either – they love having their photo taken, then looking at the display screen to laugh at themselves in the photos!
I’m visiting Trez Hota with a volunteer team from Art in Tanzania (AIT) who has come to the school to hold a seminar with the staff about children’s rights within the school system. It’s a sensitive topic as it includes discussing the replacement of corporal punishment, which is still general practice (and welcomed by parents) in schools in Tanzania, even though it has been deemed illegal.
Team leader at AIT Volunteering, Danielle Knipping who is conducting the seminar (with a Swahili translator) in line with The Children’s Agenda’s Investment plan, tells the teachers the important role that they play in a child’s life. They have the opportunity to make a difference in areas such as better hygiene and sanitation practices in schools; early childhood development, which includes social, physical, mental and emotional areas; quality education for all children and making schools safe.
Through the teaching programs that AIT offers, volunteers have had the opportunity to interact with local teachers and students, identifying the challenges that are faced within the school system in Tanzania. A big issue is that of discipline in the class and how to implement a non-corporal punishment environment.
At the meeting Danielle suggests some non-violent methods of disciplining children to the teachers, such as writing their name on the board as a warning; time-out sessions; short after-school detention; writing lines and visiting the principal’s office. The teachers are receptive and seem to accept and agree with the suggestions made, but there is a hint of uncertainty. Then one of the younger teachers voices that it is very difficult to move away from corporal punishment as it is a cultural practice and parents expect them to use this method if all else fails. Physical discipline is practiced at home and so an expected method at school as well.
It is clear that this meeting is only the very beginning towards change. The next step would be to meet with the parents so that a consistent method of discipline is practiced at home and followed through at school.
The staff is eager to be helped – Certain scenarios are given to Danielle for advice, but only so much can be suggested now; another session would be needed to brain-storm different motivational tactics that can be used in the classroom.
The meeting ends well with an idea for the volunteers to create posters displaying rules dealing with sanitation and good conduct to be followed by the children. It is decided that more brain-storming sessions will be held with the teachers to think of creative solutions to produce a safer environment, promoting children’s rights and encouraging learning and development.
ALL CHILDREN DESERVE THE RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM VIOLENCE.
Michael Sungu (AIT representative for the Children’s Agenda)
There are other means of discipline besides corporal punishment. Even if sometimes in the heat of the moment we do not find or do not look for an alternative response, corporal punishment is never the only solution, nor even a real one. Corporal punishment does not teach right from wrong, it teaches fear and hate. Education and love are constructive ways to teach self-discipline, respect and morality. Children are just young but not stupid – they need reasons not violence to become aware when they misbehave. Let’s raise children who are conscious, not one’s who live with and act through fear. Please, don’t teach children by hitting them! That won’t do any good. Understand them and talk to them. We should teach children as we expect them to behave when they reach adulthood. It is well known that children who grow up in violent home environments are prone to resort to violence when trying to deal with their own problems. Invest to make school safe, that’s what today’s wise societies are breeding. No child should suffer physical punishment from anybody.