I returned from school after being thrashed by my arithmetic teacher for not getting an arithmetical problem right. Then, we called it, ‘sums’. The palms of my hand had some reddish stripes on it, I was still in pain. When I got home, my mother had not returned from work, and the ‘auntie’ who cooked for us was still cooking. I was hungry and so I decided to go and harvest some guavas around our compound. I climbed the tree, harvested a few guavas and started eating. I was mid-way through when one of my elder siblings called out in anger, “Delphine, come here!” I knew there was nothing to be afraid of for I had done nothing. I had not gone out of the compound as it was against house rules to leave the house without an elder’s permission, and as was always the case, no elder ever wanted us to go out. That is how even our neighbours never got to see our faces although we did not have a big fence round our house. As I ran to answer my call, the first thing I saw was a cane from a freshly cut branch. I could see the greenness of the cane’s peeled skin moist, and glittering. I panicked, and immediately asked, ‘why? What have I done?’ Before I could get an answer, I was flogged till wounded. When I screamed ‘blood’, only then did he stop. And in anger, he said, “this beating and wound will teach you a lesson! Next time, you won’t climb a tree just after the rains”. I wept for hours uncontrollably and no one bothered to come around and say, “Del, don’t cry, let me have a look at your wound”. No one cared, no one took pity whereas they were people in the house, several. How heartless! I write with tears forming in my eyes, but I don’t want any to run down my cheek because I did overcome the physical pain, although the emotional hurt still lurks around like a bad omen.
Now what was wrong was the mere fact that my brother had decided to flog me even if I had a genuine reason to present to him, like I was hungry, and there was no food. Plus, my teacher had whipped the hell out of my palms for having a ‘sums’ wrong. I knew it was dangerous for me to climb a wet tree, but I was hungry. What annoyed me was the fact that he left me to climb the tree, watched me eat my guava, and went and looked for a cane. Even if we had been warned not to climb trees. If he cared so much, I still think he should have just reminded me not to climb the tree because it was wet, and it ‘could’ pose danger. I employ ‘could’ because there was a potential risk of me getting hurt, but I wasn’t. .
As soon as my mother returned from work to the house, I was the first to go and open the door; immediately, I started crying. She asked me why I was crying, and I said “he has beaten me, look at the wounds”. My mother called out to my brother and scolded at him, warning him that if he ever touched me, he’d see what she would do. But it felt like throwing water on a duck’s back for what she said, got in through the right ear, and left through the left one. It never sank because he made it a point that each time he beats me, and I report, he would still beat me. Only now does it occur to me that I was abused as a child both at home and at primary school. I forgot about the pain at primary school, because it seemed to me every one else was being flogged and that made it appear normal.
I can bet a pound that this same behavior occurs in other homes, and maybe worst cases. It is a concern to me when inflicting pain becomes the core method of raising upright children and adults seem to be perpetrators of such barbaric schemes. The pain my brother inflicted on me, the scars, the emotional hurt, are still in me, but I have to let go, to forgive him and move on. Although I have done all that I possibly can do to forgive him, I will be wrong to stay silent on the issue of physical abuse on children that parents, siblings, and teachers inflict on children as young as the age of pre-nursery. If I remain quiet, then I acknowledge that several children will grow up with the severe consequences of child flogging. You may not understand this if you did not grow in a home like mine, but I want you to feel me that the rush to beating children is not a right approach to discipline. I want you to know that because I was flogged at school, I have never forgotten the teacher who used to inflict pain on me. Each time I want to see him, I will open up that leaflet, and there he would be staring at me with a long cane in his hand, in his endeavour to impart knowledge. I think now that I learn without a cane next to me, or fear that someone is watching me to study, I am able to use my mind more freely, and during the most convenient moments which makes me think I excel with less supervision and without the cane. Those who know me in my primary school days would think I was a ‘genie’ because I used to receive prices at school, but those prices were not borne out of sheer intelligence. They were borne out of fear. This makes me think that humans can achieve anything if they are watched, pushed and flogged to do so. Although I enjoyed my educational excellence at primary school, I still do not think that the pain I have had to live with all these years as a result of flogging can make me applaud beating as a better approach to child discipline. From high school on-wards, and being an adult, I have been able to work my brain independently, without fear, and with more satisfying results.
We bring up children in a way that pushes them to lose their sense of personality in pursuit of what they should be, compelled by fear of the cane. In some homes, children are not allowed to ask questions, talk less of explaining their actions. We should know that these little ones, are people like ourselves, they have minds of their own, and they need us to make things clear for them. We do not need to scare them with ‘batons’. The world is just too scary a place and to corroborate this scariness with the whip only makes life miserable. Adults should give children the ability to grow all by themselves. All they need from us is guidance.
This is what I beg of you; please do not beat any child to inflict pain on them. Do not use violence means to impart knowledge (school no be by force). Do not ignore someone beating a child; ask them to stop for you to disappear from the scene (You do not know, you might just save someone’s life). As a brother or sister to anyone, do not rush into beating anyone. There are better ways to child discipline. Just because you are an adult who wants to be revered, respected, and yearns to exert control, does not give you the impetus to cane the child. Adults must stop corporal punishment.
Have you ever considered the reasons children are flogged back home? “You broke pan, you broke glass, you no wash pan, pan no clean” Bammm!- a huge spank on the face. Come on, if anything let us make the world enjoyable for our little angels!
For more information on how to discipline your child visit http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/discipline-tactics?page=2
Corporal (physical) punishment, such as spanking, isn’t recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics or mental health associations. Why? Primarily because nonphysical discipline techniques work better with fewer negative consequences. According to the AAP, spanking may result in the following problems:
- Spanking may make children more aggressive
- Spanking can become more violent and harm a child
- Spanking may cause children to think that it’s OK to physically hurt someone you love