I am a victim of corporal punishment at the same time a victimizer of the same. In the early 1980’s as a student in class 1 in the then Changangkha primary school, I still recall a lady teacher administering 20 times of harsh lashing on my hands by the tender branches of the willow trees. The willow trees are still there in the present Changangkha LSS fully matured. Every time I pass by the school I am reminded of that one incident in the classroom. The incident that had me relieve in the classroom out of fear of the teacher. I hated the school so much so that I refused to go to the school. My mother had to look for another school in the midst of the academic session.
I remember our Dzongkha lopens applying the harshness of the nettle sting on our tender skin. More than concentrating in the lesson we would be busy scratching the affected part. There was no learning in the classroom.
As a beginning teacher I administered the same kind of punishment to my students the way we were brought up in the school. Students used to fear me and I mistook that for respect. Even as a principal I did exactly the same kind of corporal punishment to students in the manner I was treated as a student. If I am ever asked to mention one thing that I regret in my life, it’s this application of the corporal punishment to my students.
Now after more than two decades the attitude of the people still hasn’t changed. We are now entering into the 21st century-in the world of information and technology. It is a fast paced world where children have become smarter, more sensitive and at the same time vulnerable. What worked two decades ago may not be applicable in today’s scenario. And so is the case of corporal punishment. We need to move with the changing pace of the world and accept changes with development.
Today there are many alternatives to dealing with students rather than the use of force. Positive discipline is one next to counseling. It is a matter of developing positive rapport and connection with students through care, warmth, love and support. Schools are oriented on the child friendly aspect of schooling. There are discipline guides provided by the ministry of education.
How can we base the social problems due to the ban of corporal punishment in the schools? How about the many adults who are equally engaged in such social disharmony? What about the parental roles at home? W may never know the violence in the youth today may be the result of the violence inflected on them at one point or the other. And in a place like Bhutan where GNH is the developmental philosophy, corporal punishment certainly has no room to stay. I am glad the realization dawned on me before it is too late and I don’t want our teachers to make the same mistakes like I did.