By Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci
CORPORAL punishment and child abuse are weighty subjects and are defined as: “The deliberate infliction of physical pain such as flogging (to beat harshly with a whip or strap), slapping (a sharp smack with an open hand) and paddling (hitting with a large ‘mugoti’) to punish a wrongdoing. It can take the form of parental, school or judicial corporal punishment”.
The current high rate of physical punishment, especially by teachers at schools, are deplorable, regrettable and clearly unacceptable. They reflect a profound sense of our socio-cultural meltdown that includes unwanted pregnancies, school drop-outs, drug abuse and the wanton disrespect of the law by the police force.
These socio-cultural and socio-economic issues need to be addressed by society as a whole if Zimbabwe wishes to eliminate these scourges.
Many socio-cultural factors are said to contribute to abusive behaviour, especially by parents or guardians.
These include low self-esteem, low intellect, hostility, isolation, depression, immaturity, dependency, marital conflicts, financial stress, drugs and/or alcohol abuse, inappropriate attitudes, lack of parenting skills, illness and physical inability; some abusive parents reportedly were abused themselves as children.
In Zimbabwe, the breakup of the extended family where the tete played a pivotal role in child rearing, has no doubt, contributed to the erosion of traditional decorum and is a situation that needs to be addressed urgently by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans.
Brainwashing and over-loading our children with Western-motivated ‘rights’ through their forced integration in all the subjects, as diverse as maths, science, music and dance as a ‘cross-cutting’ subject is trivial at best and disadvantageous to our African philosophy of hunhu/ubuntu.
The unacceptable high levels of intolerance being displayed by teachers towards their charges suggest that most are inadequately educated, and certainly not able to undertake such an arduous task as overseeing the writing of the new school curriculum.
The standards of teachers and teacher-training should be revisited as a matter of priority before we tackle the new curriculum – reliance on the internet is not the panacea.
Over time, several modifications have been made regarding corporal punishment by the Zimbabwean Government, until finally, the Government accepted UN recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment in all forms and settings.
But are the imposition of donor-sponsored Western conventions and laws right for Zimbabwe? Will it address the issue or eliminate the practice since most parents feel it is correct to do so?
Many supporters of corporal punishment, locally and around the world, agree that physical punishment, such as caning for boys at schools, is a strong incentive for motivating students to stay in line. This, they argue, should be administered by a school principle, qualified teacher, administrator or coach to deter misconduct.
At times, even just the threat of physical punishment such as a cane displayed in a principal’s office can be a powerful deterrent and can help to discourage a student’s misbehaviour, disobedience or unruly conduct.
Proverbs 13:24 of the Bible clearly states: “He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him occasionally … Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged…. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” – Ephesians 6:4. Proverbs 6:22 states: “Train a child in the way that he must grow and when he grows he will not leave it” – in this case the ways of our ancestors – with hunhu/ubuntu!
Today’s African parents do not understand why they have lost their authority to raise their own children.
Can someone please explain?
I am reminded of friends of ours who moved to the US some years ago. Soon after, their young son, aged around 12 years, was using drugs.
Having found no drugs in the house, the frantic parents approached his school for help and asked to search his desk.
The school authorities refused on the grounds of ‘infringing his human rights’. He was deprived of any help, either from his parents or the authorities.
The boy became an uncontrollable drug addict, a worthless human degenerate.
Now, useless to himself, his family and society, what good were his human rights at that age?
Where and what are his human rights now?
Should they not have heeded the Bible where Proverbs 23:13 affirms: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die!”
What rights have children when they are biologically not equipped to look after themselves?
African children were raised by the village; unfortunately, schools have become the centres that establish manners, etiquette, cleanliness and order in society – hunhu/ubuntu; are teachers equipped and ready for this daunting task?
In Western countries over the years, especially since the last major wars, there has been an increase in the erosion of their societies.
This has resulted in the increased rates of divorce, abortion, women and child abuse, incest, paedophilia, besides murder and rape.
To this shameful list we now add child-sex selection, artificial insemination, and ‘proxy’ insemination whereby a woman carries a foetus, inseminated by her husband/partner/live-in-lover on another’s behalf resulting in 3-parent babies.
Though Britain today is economically advanced, with its established welfare state, children are not cherished and safeguarded as they are in Africa. ‘Broken Britain’ today, is faced with other more serious social problems associated with reconciling the contemporary, dysfunctional families with the demands of an advanced industrial economy with a secure and satisfying family life.
Even internationally, many children’s lives seem difficult and hopeless.
Relationships between the contemporary generations are strained. With limited family time, most working parents are harried, resulting in many neglected, unhappy and even abused children.
Today, one-in-four children in the UK come from a fatherless family; mothers account for the vast majority of single parents.
Often, single parenthood sets the scene for child poverty; fatherlessness in families contributes to emotional and psychological problems, drug abuse, poor educational outcomes, teenage motherhood, crime and domestic violence.
Both in the UK and the US, successive governments have failed to improve the standards of poorer members of society; failed to provide appropriate education, decent employment or even to be decent parents and citizens almost to the point of venerating the non-traditional, dysfunctional family. Is this what we want for Zimbabwe?
The horrendous reports of child labour abuses, the dire poverty, children living in salubrious surroundings, pornography and paedophilia were the reasons for the adoption of human rights by the West that now remain conveniently buried in a backwater, while the omnipresent Western NGOs persist on ramming their way across the world preaching and enforcing their distorted form of human, civil, children and women’s rights. Given such a dark history, what gives them the right to claim high moral ground?
Even today, NGOs working in Zimbabwe believe they are ‘… the voices of pluralism in, southern Africa’ with the right to ‘… challenge the state and others collaborating with it…’ in what they perceive to be their humanitarian endeavours to ‘…foster democratic governance in Zimbabwe…’
Let Africans mould their children in the African way that we understand.
After all, is that not what we fought for?
Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field. For Comments E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org