Thursday, 1 May 2008

Caning in Primary Schools

In my mind caning is a British institution. While I'm sure children were beaten, or 'disciplined', before the British arrived in East Africa, it was the British that formalised the practice in schools, and it has remained in Uganda long after dying out in the UK. As someone who counts themselves fairly liberal on these kind of social issues, I admit that I find the whole idea of caning school kids morally difficult. As a volunteer teacher four years ago I deliberately didn't inform the Deputy Headmaster about two boys I had caught swapping exam scripts, knowing what their punishment would be. Naively I thought that they might realise I had 'saved' them and that they would then be perfect students from then on. Somehow I doubt that was the case.

This story, a few weeks ago in New Vision, reminded me of that time. The veracity of the father's claims (that the caning directly killed his son) are impossible to prove, but it remains the fact that a boy in the fourth year of primary school was subjected to a caning shortly before he died. Surely at the very least in primary schools there must be alternative ways of correcting bad behaviour? Or is this just my liberal, squeamish tendencies running away with me?

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