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Corporal Punishment: Perceptions and Adoption in Nigerian Secondary Schools

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Abstract

Children are often described both as the wealth and pride of a nation. The future of any nation therefore depends on the young ones who constitute the potential human resources needed for the continuity of the society. Thus, to achieve sustainable development of a society, the young population must not only be preserved but also disciplined. School indiscipline has been over time an issue of concern for educators, policy makers and public opinion in general, owing to the outbreak of aggressiveness among peers, violence within teacher – student relationship and vandalism as well, leading to perpetual existence of problem of drop out, deviant behaviours, examination malpractice, lateness among students. The school is a microcosm of the society where high discipline is expected to be observed and maintained among its members especially the students or pupils. The administration of corporal punishment on pupils breaches their fundamental human rights to respect for human dignity and physical integrity. This paper reviewed empirical findings of various disciplines e.g. legal, health and psychological on the effect of corporal punishment on students. It was revealed that corporal punishment is still being used in secondary schools in Nigeria. The findings of this study, conclusively recommended that corporal punishment should not be totally eradicated but rather, other mild correctional methods should be used, so as to reduce pains on the students that can create a lasting memory that cannot be erased. Keywords: Corporal Punishment, Secondary Schools, Perceptions, Academic Achievements, Students
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Education Research Journal Vol. 7(8): 200 204, August 2017
Available online at http://resjournals.com/journals/educational-research-journal.html
ISSN: 2026-6332 ©2017 International Research Journals
Full Length Research Paper
Corporal Punishment: Perceptions and Adoption in
Nigerian Secondary Schools
Nwosu Jonathan C., (Ph.D.)1, Amanze Samuel U., (Ph.D.)2, Oladosu Opeyemi T.3, and
Adewunmi Elijah4
1Associate Professor, Department of Educational Foundations Babcock University, Nigeria
2Director, Audit, Risk, and Compliance, Babcock University, Ogun State. Nigeria
3Chaplain, Division of Spiritual Life, Babcock University, Ogun State. Nigeria
4Babcock University High School Chaplain, Ogun State. Nigeria
Abstract
Children are often described both as the wealth and pride of a nation. The future of any nation therefore depends
on the young ones who constitute the potential human resources needed for the continuity of the society. Thus,
to achieve sustainable development of a society, the young population must not only be preserved but also
disciplined. School indiscipline has been over time an issue of concern for educators, policy makers and public
opinion in general, owing to the outbreak of aggressiveness among peers, violence within teacher student
relationship and vandalism as well, leading to perpetual existence of problem of drop out, deviant behaviours,
examination malpractice, lateness among students. The school is a microcosm of the society where high
discipline is expected to be observed and maintained among its members especially the students or pupils. The
administration of corporal punishment on pupils breaches their fundamental human rights to respect for human
dignity and physical integrity. This paper reviewed empirical findings of various disciplines e.g. legal, health and
psychological on the effect of corporal punishment on students. It was revealed that corporal punishment is still
being used in secondary schools in Nigeria. The findings of this study, conclusively recommended that corporal
punishment should not be totally eradicated but rather, other mild correctional methods should be used, so as to
reduce pains on the students that can create a lasting memory that cannot be erased.
Keywords: Corporal Punishment, Secondary Schools, Perceptions, Academic Achievements, Students
Introduction
Education is believed to be a vital tool which drives every
nation to social and economic transformation because it
brings about progress and development. Also, education
can provide knowledge, attitude, skills, competencies,
technical and vocational expertise, which will enable them
contribute to national economic development.
Children are often described both as the wealth and
pride of a nation. The future of any nation therefore
depends on the young ones who constitute the potential
human resources needed for the continuity of the society.
Thus, to achieve sustainable development of a society,
the young population must not only be preserved but also
disciplined. School indiscipline in Nigeria has been over
time an issue of concern for educators, policy makers and
public opinion in general, owing to the outbreak of
aggressiveness among peers, violence within teacher
student relationship and vandalism as well, leading to
perpetual existence of problem of drop out, deviant
behaviours, examination malpractice, lateness and poor
academic performance among students (Ali, Dada, Isiaka,
& Salmon, 2014).
In Nigerian secondary schools today, it appears that
some learners are habitual late comers; this is contrary to
the school rules and regulations. They leave school
premises without permission; do not bring their books to
school; refuse to do their homework; reject any kind of
authority and resist any disciplinary measures taken
against them (Ehiane, 2014). All these have led to the
201
adoption of corporal punishment in schools, with the
intention to contain the act.
School corporal punishment, a form of corporal
punishment, covers official punishments of school
students for misbehavior that involve striking the student a
given number of times in a generally methodical and
premeditated ceremony. The punishment is usually
administered either across the buttocks or on the hands,
with an implement specially kept for the purpose such as a
rattan cane, wooden paddle, slipper, leather strap or a
wooden yardstick. Less commonly, it could also include
spanking or smacking the student in a deliberate manner
on a specific part of the body with the open hand,
especially at the elementary school level (Nakpodia,
2012).
The Concept of Corporal Punishment
Punishment is a term used in operant conditioning to refer
to any change that occurs after a behaviour that reduces
the likelihood that behaviour will occur again in the future.
While positive and negative reinforcement are used to
increase behaviours, punishment is focused on reducing
or eliminating unwanted behaviours (Leach & Humphreys,
2007). Also, Scarre (2003) also defines the word
"corporal" to refer to any punishment applied on the body
including assault or any means that are meant to cause
physical pain or humiliation.
The National Association of School Nurses, (2010):
defines punishment as causing physical pain deliberately
to change behaviour that could be in the form of hitting,
slapping, spanking, punching and pinching using objects
such as sticks, belts, and paddles. It also states that “the
intentional infliction of physical pain as a method of
changing behavior, which may include methods such as
hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pinching, shaking, use
of various objects (paddles, belts, sticks or other), or
painful body postures Nakpodia (2012). Acton (1969)
opined that punishment also implies law-making,
penalization, finding guilty, pronouncing a sentence. In this
case, it serves as a method used in reducing the
incidence of one’s behaviour either by deterring the
potential offenders or by incapacitating and preventing
them from repeating the offence or by reforming them into
law-abiding student. In educational system, research
indicates that punishment may be administered by
teachers, other staff and school mates on children through
corporal punishment and other forms of punishment
(Dunne, Leach, Chilisa, Maundeni, Tabulawa, Kutor,
Forde, & Asamoah, 2005), and (Leach, & Mitchell, 2006).
The goal of punishment in schools is to decrease the
behaviour that it follows. Punishment is only a method of
disciplining and in school’s corporal punishment is only
one aspect mostly used (Sanderson, 2003). Corporal
punishment is the use of physical force causing pain, but
not wounds, as a means of disciplining students in
schools. According to Leach and Humphreys (2007)
spanking, rapping on the head and slapping are forms of
corporal punishment which are normally used in schools.
The use of corporal punishment is strongly rooted in our
society and is passed on through generations; however,
this doesn't mean that corporal punishment is justified.
The legitimacy of corporal punishment is still a contentious
issue to many societies including Nigeria. Further,
McGrath (1999): proposed that corporal punishment
reflects a failure on the part of the teachers.
Punishing means subjecting a penalty for an offense
and usually includes inflicting some kind of hurt; in this
regard, to Nakpodia (2012) sees corporal punishment as a
practice of disciplining in which, something unpleasant is
present or positive reinforces are removed following
behaviour so that it happens less often in future. In
general, these definitions seek to point out that corporal
punishment is the use of physical force against an
individual. All these harsh disciplinary measures adopted
by authoritarian/totalitarian parents and teachers to
discipline children lead to anti-social behaviour, contribute
to academic failure and social rejection.
Types of Corporal Punishment in Junior Secondary
schools in Nigeria
Corporal punishment which is a kind of physical
punishment that involves a deliberate infliction of pain as
retribution for an offence is mainly divided into three (3)
types:
1. Parental or Domestic Corporal Punishment:
Corporal punishments are being administered by
parents to their children, because they believed
nothing else has worked except it.
2. Judicial Corporal Punishment: This is part of a
criminal sentence ordered by a court of law,
closely related to, it is prison corporal punishment
ordered either by the prison authorities or by a
visiting court.
3. School Corporal Punishment: This is a corporal
punishment undertaken within schools, when
students are punished by teachers or school
administrators for wrong done against rules and
regulations.
Alhassan (2014) in Umezinwa and Elendu (2012) also
listed the following forms of corporal punishment:
i. Scolding and verbal assault to the pupil
ii. Making the pupil to stay back after school
iii. The pupil cutting of grasses
iv. The pupil fetching of water
v. The pupil scrubbing the floor of the class
vi. The pupil sweeping the whole class
vii. The pupil washing the whole toilets
viii. Sending the pupil out of the class
ix. The pupil kneeling down or standing for a long
time
x. Flogging the pupil with stick or cane
xi. Giving the pupil knock on the head
xii. Slapping or beating the pupil with hands
xiii. Kicking and pushing the pupil with legs
xiv. Pulling the pupil’s ear or hair
202
Evidence Assembled of Corporal Punishments in
Junior Secondary Schools
The school is a microcosm of the society where high
discipline is expected to be observed and maintained
among its members especially the students or pupils. In
this connection, Kilinci (2009) posited that schools are
meant to be one of the safest places where students fulfill
their educational aspirations.
Umezinwa and Elendu (2012) noted that there has
been high prevalence of indiscipline among learners in all
levels of Nigerian educational system including Junior
Secondary schools. The Social Learning Theory of Ivan
Pavlov (1849-1936) states that the major assumption of
social learning theory is that all behaviours whether
adaptive or maladaptive, social or antisocial, defiant or
non-defiant, praiseworthy or condemnable are learned
and can also be unlearned. It could be said therefore that
all manners of indiscipline acts that pervade our
secondary school’s environment today are learned and
can be unlearned through the use of various correctional
methods (Ali, Dada, Isiaka, & Salmon, 2014).
Unfortunately, flogging, as an example of corporal
punishment and as a disciplinary measure is fast declining
in most Nigerian schools, a situation many attribute to the
decadence among students these days. Many teachers
believe flogging students has no place in today’s
education. To them, the advancement of technology has
made it imperative that teachers develop better ingenious
ways of correcting students when they err instead of
resorting to corporal punishment while others believe that
teaching must necessarily include the use of the cane in a
world where indiscipline has eaten too deep into the moral
fabric of the society.
However, it will become unacceptable when flogging
gets to the extreme. Some teachers are just too harsh and
over a little provocation, they descend on students and
beat them with any kind of stick available and in the
process inflicting severe injuries on their body, the scars of
which may have to live with them forever.
While some school administrators and teachers
support its use, others are strongly opposed to its use.
However, school administrators and teachers have power
and authority to administer a school disciplinary
programme. This power to control and discipline students
for infractions is traceable to the age doctrine of in-loco-
parentis (in place of parents).
Global perspectives on Corporal Punishment
Throughout the history of education, corporal punishment
was regarded as a means of maintaining discipline in the
school. The findings of Ajibola, Lukman and Ali, and
Hamadi (2014) contend that in practice corporal
punishment means that students are punished with the
birch, cane, paddle or strap if they did something wrong.
However, stakeholders in education have condemned
corporal punishment on the basis that it is out of all
proportion. When punishment is out of all proportion to the
mistake, it breeds antagonisms to the school. Stressing
the fact that the child becomes more hostile, this leads to
a large number of psychological and physiological
troubles. He argued that if education means the act of
leading out, the act of unfolding, the act of developing then
corporal punishment could never be educative.
Concluding that it will not enable the child to adjust himself
to the environment, the child may become indiscipline and
quarrelsome and may become antisocial.
International concern for the danger that the
administration of corporal punishment poses to the right
and wellbeing of pupils has long been established. In
2001, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment
of Children (GITEACPOC) across the world was launched.
The campaign is also aimed at ensuring that the
recommended actions of the UN Committee on the Rights
of the Child (UNCRC) and other human rights bodies are
accepted and that governments move speedily to
implement legal reform and public education programmes.
The campaign is about preventing all forms of violence
against children in schools across the world, including
corporal punishment, sexual abuse, bullying, peer to peer
violence, use of weapons and harassment in school and
on the journey to and from school. The Global Initiative to
End All Corporal Punishment of Children regularly submits
briefings to the pre-sessional working groups of the UN
human rights treaty monitoring bodies.
The administration of corporal punishment on pupils
breaches their fundamental human rights to respect for
human dignity and physical integrity. Its legality in almost
every State worldwide-in contrast to other forms of inter-
personal violence-challenges the universal right to equal
protection under the law. Some secondary school
students (public) in Nigeria are victims of some form of
corporal punishment. The study of Alhassan (2000)
reported that corporal punishment is allowed for certain
degree of offences in schools of Ghana and Nigeria.
In traditional African society, the use of the cane in
behaviour modification was very rampant. Parents
administer the cane on the children. This situation found
expression in Miller (1987:16) who wondered that ‘We
don’t yet know, above all, what the world might be like if
children were to grow up without being subjected to
humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them
seriously as people’. Teachers use the cane a lot in order
to maintain discipline in schools and control antisocial
behaviour of pupils. They use the cane in the classroom
during the process of instruction. Alhassan (2000)
explained the concept of discipline to mean training that
enables an individual to develop an orderly conduct and
self-control as well as self-direction. According to Tudor-
Hart, discipline is a human characteristic which has
existed ever since man became human, and this would be
at least 100,000years ago (Mundy-Castle 1976). Any
community lacking discipline will surely disintegrate.
Discipline serves to hold individuals together enabling
them to work, live and interact with each other
harmoniously, constructively and cooperatively. Discipline
allows man to live with man so that all can survive and
benefit from their association (Alhassan, 2014).
203
Reasons for using Corporal punishment in schools
As for school corporal punishment, it is believed that this
kind of punishment could immediately deter students from
wrong behaviours and help them learn better. According
to Du Plessis (2008) states that the reasons of giving
punishment in schools could be classified into two;
teacher-based reasons and pupils’-based reasons which
are relevant to our study. All of these reasons in some
way affect many of our girl-child and are often interrelated
As an old saying goes, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
Corporal punishment is viewed as an efficient way to
teach student correct behaviours and to make them study
harder. From research as well as newspaper articles, it is
evident that corporal punishment is still viewed by some
as having a place in education (Skinner, 2002). Many
teachers feel that without corporal punishment classrooms
are out of control. According to the 2007 UNICEF study,
nearly 60% of all parents in Jordan believe that corporal
punishment is “an effective child-rearing method” in the
home, and a similar percentage believe that corporal
punishment should also be used in the schools, moreover,
the majority of Jordanian parents believe that hitting
children in the home or in school is justifiable when a child
disobeys a task, breaks a rule, fights with another child, or
performs poorly on his or her academics (Elayyan, 2007).
Furthermore, the study of Lwo and Yuan (2010) point out,
arguments for the positive effects of corporal punishment
continue to be made today; a major argument is that
corporal punishment improves children’s classroom
behaviour because it is “a very clear, specific, and obvious
consequence.
Corporal Punishment and Students Academic
Achievements
The use of punishment in schools is to instill discipline and
is melted on student who violates the agreed rules and
regulations in schools. It is administered to bring about a
desirable change in behaviour and therefore improving
school discipline (Okumbe, 1998). However, what we
experience in recent times is that there is situation where
a student who commits an offence, can easily go
unpunished. Nevertheless, in most secondary schools
some forms of punishments are unfair and undeserved
like corporal punishment in schools involving severe
canning, suspension, expulsion, branding and mutilation
of students (Encarta, 2009). Docking, (2000) in his opinion
on application of punishments in schools in the United
Kingdom observed that, some punishments are
appropriate and constructive while others are not
desirable, baseless and instead leads to fear. This idea is
also in agreement with Canter, (2000) who argues that
although discipline remains one of the most common
problems for teachers, some punishments such as
corporal punishments should not be used because no
evidence suggests that they have produced better results
academically, morally or that it improves school discipline.
According to Mafabi, (1993) punishments are expected to
enforce compliance when students are under the care of
teachers. This opinion is also shared by Cotton (2000),
who said that punishment in a school system is expected
to teach students the relationship between their
behaviours and the outcome or accountability for their
mistakes.
Teachers are worried about the aggression being
directed to them by both students and their parents. This
has resulted into some students being expelled, others
suspended, forced to do hard labour at school, chased out
of classes all of which seem to affect their academic
performance, some forms of punishments like corporal
punishment could lead to physical injury if teachers are
not careful in its administration. Cotton (2000) also
contends that uniform punishment can be an effective way
of controlling studentsbehaviour if students, teachers and
school administrators know and understand that
punishment is firm, fair and consistent. Adeyemo, (1985)
in his study on the level of discipline in secondary schools
in Nigeria, revealed that there is wide spread violation of
school rules and regulations which was capable of
obstructing the smooth functioning of the school system
and thereby affect pupil’s performance (Ehiane, 2014).
Reason why School Corporal Punishment should be
banned
Due to the lasting effects placed on pupils when given
these painful punishments, some countries have banned
the use of corporal punishment in schools, while some still
regards it as good means of punishment because it serves
as a means of deterrent to others and It has no place in
the education of children.
Conclusion
The study revealed that corporal punishment is the most
frequently used form of punishment in secondary school;
corporal punishment is not an effective tool in disciplinary
control. This research reveals that corporal punishment
does more harm than good in the lives of the students. It
can be logically concluded that while it is good to instill
discipline in the students, caution should be taken and
punishment should be done in love and understanding.
Recommendations
From the findings the following recommendations are
made for consideration:
1. School should establish rules and regulations
guiding the administration of corporal punishment.
2. Punishment which will teach moral should be
administered such as asking the students to wash
plates in school kitchen, cleaning the dining hall,
sweeping the class, etc.
3. The negative effects of the students’
misdemeanor should be clearly explained to the
students before the punishment.
4. Because some teachers beat out of anger, a
school worker can be designated for the
204
administration of discipline or a neutral staff
member should administer it.
5. The school authority should ensure that the
punishment is in commensuration with the offence
being committed.
6. Students who are in constant habit of flouting the
school rules should be referred to the Counseling
Unit of the school.
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... This is not so in Nigeria, which has over 91 million child population (UNICEF, 2014), making up nearly half of the entire 191 million population of the country (National Population Commission, 2017). It is generally believed that children are the future leaders and therefore constitute a potential crop of human resources that are needed for the continuity of the society (Opeyemi, 2017), hence exposing children to violent discipline seriously limits the possibility of achieving such an anticipated future leadership position. Thus, preventing and reducing violence against children is now a pressing global priority. ...
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Student deaths from school shootings were examined across all 50 states according to the state’s policy on the use of corporal punishment in schools after controlling for associated differences in poverty rates and the prevalence of conservative Christian religions. There were significantly more school shooting deaths found in states allowing school corporal punishment compared with those that do not. The odds of fatal involvement in a school shooting were greatest in states permitting school corporal punishment compared with those prohibiting it (odds ratio, 2.04) or restricting it to districts serving less than half the student population (odds ratio, 1.77). Moreover, the rate of school corporal punishment was moderately correlated with the rate of fatal school shootings both across all states and within the South, the region in which endorsement of school corporal punishment is most prevalent.Aggr. Behav. 28:173–183, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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Incl. bibl. references, index.
The philosophy of punishment
  • H B Acton
Acton H. B. (1969). The philosophy of punishment: London, Macmillan; St. Martin's Press.