Ouch !! Corporal Punishment & Other Means to Rein In Unruly Students [Archives:1997/39/Culture]

September 29 1997

Fatima Muttahar* The controversy surrounding the punishment of pupils at schools still rages on. Some teachers argue that there is no way to deal with undisciplined pupils but to punish them in one way or another. This problem is universal. Corporal punishment is not prohibited by the Yemeni law. It is left to the discretion of the teacher to deal with rowdy behavior at the classroom as he or she sees fit.
Means of Punishment Teachers often resort to varying means to punish their pupils for misbehaving, depending on the teacher’s temperament and individual traits and how serious is the individual pupil’s misconduct. Means of punishment include caning, standing up in the corner for a long time with hands raised, kicking the pupil out of the classroom, sweeping the school’s grounds, deducting marks from the “behavior grades,” writing a word or a sentence repetitively for a large number of times, or calling up the pupil’s parents by the school’s principal. The above means of punishment are for individual pupils. However, there are means for collective punishment. These include the above plus other methods devised by individual teachers. Some teachers leave the lesson altogether, forcing the pupils to study it on their own later in the exams.
The Pupils One pupil said that her teacher hit her hard on her hand palm until it bled. She told her eldest sister at home who talked to the teacher later on. The eldest sister blamed the young one, not the teacher. In contrast to that, a punished pupil brought his father to school who quarreled with the responsible teacher. Such parental behavior makes an impressionable pupil disrespect his or her teachers thereby making the teachers eventually lose their status as respectable educators.
Teachers’ View Female teachers often complain that girls talk a lot; but because of the veil they wear, the teacher cannot correctly identify the culprit. However, in general, boys are more likely to misbehave. They are more noisy and usually hyperactive. There is usually a specific group of undisciplined pupils who usually sit at the back of the classroom. Unruly boys usually stand up to their teacher and may counteract, whether immediately within the classroom or later on outside the school. Girls, on the other hand, respect their teachers more. No acts of “vengeance” are carried out, except maybe for the odd shouting match. Some girls, however, inflict some sort of a prank or a practical joke on their teacher – exploding pens are a favorite.
How To Deal With Undisciplined Pupils Souad Bolbol, a teacher at Sana’a Private School, said: “all pupils must be treated firmly right from the beginning of the school year. Pupils can be classified according to their behavior – disciplined and undisciplined. The latter must be treated with firmness and understanding at the same time.” Mansoor Al-Raji’i, an Egyptian teacher of Arabic at a public secondary school, said: “a teacher must treat all students fairly and equally. Outside the school, a teacher must befriend his or her pupils – barriers must come down. This makes the pupils respect and love their teacher and refrain from any misconduct during classes.” From Mansoor’s experience as a student, he found that students did not like to attend or may even misbehave in lessons by unpopular teachers.
Why Do Pupils Misbehave? Abdu Ali, a second-year student at Al-Thawra Preparatory school in Sana’a, admits that he is often punished for talking and laughing during lessons. He claims that he wants to relieve himself of boredom because of the distressing atmosphere of the classroom, “It feels like I am in a dungeon,” he said, “the walls are painted with dark paint and it smells because of the large number of students.” Mohammed Fadhil, a third-year primary-school pupil, said that he is often punished for failing to do his homework.

Pupils Protest Most pupils complain that collective punishment is very unfair because the innocent are punished along with the guilty. “The misbehaving is usually done by a certain group of undisciplined pupils. So teachers may have to target those instead of the whole class as sometimes happens,” said a group of smart-looking students. One female teacher admitted that she resorts to collective punishment when she is in a particularly bad mood. “When I am feeling too upset to deal with individual pupils, I just punish the whole class, ” she said. Another teacher said that she resorts to collective punishment in overcrowded classrooms where it is difficult to pinpoint the misbehaving pupil or pupils. “Collective punishment is unfair because the innocent are punished with the guilty;” said a preparatory school teacher, “affecting the psyche of the well-behaved pupil.”
Conclusion It seems that punishment in the school is generally accepted by Yemeni society. However, some teachers go too far in punishing their pupils. The fact that corporal punishment is not prohibited by law gives the teachers a free hand in administering various forms of punishment. They are oblivious to the fact that when punishment exceeds reasonable limits, it becomes a physical and psychological aggression against another human being, which can be seen as a kind of torture. A pupil is a human entitled to his or her rights as specified by the international Convention of the Rights of the Child. Both the teachers and the pupils’ families are responsible for directing the young ones to behave in a correct manner by approved means of education. —————————————– * Fatima Muttahar is doing an internship at Yemen Times. She is a third-year student at the Media College, Sana’a University.