Alternatives to corporal punishment
Having read recent responses to the current court case against teachers from the Windhoek Gymnasium and on Corporal Punishment in general (e.g. in the SMS-Pages of the Namibian or in 'Confessions of an Urban Single Mom', and in the Windhoek Observer's opinion pages: 'Spank those bums'), I get the impression that there is little knowledge about the real impact of violence and even less on alternatives to it.
As a nation which has experienced incredible violence and systemic oppression over decades and centuries, it is obvious that violence is something known and familiar to us and that it somehow forms part of our identity. It would therefore be difficult for us to all of a sudden be completely against it, as this would mean to be against something we 'are' and identify with. This is actually one of the main arguments for the use of violence in bringing up children: "It made me the good and well-behaved person that I am today, so it must also be good for others."
When such statement is used as a justification, I wonder how aware this person is about the fact that they are actually beating someone who is younger, weaker, dependent on them, and who is not even in a position to hit back? What is the educational message in such beatings? Most likely something like: "It is ok to beat someone, as long as you are the stronger one"? I honestly doubt that this is a good message to be sent out to young kids.
While painful experiences can sometimes indeed lead to really important learning experiences, I doubt that deliberately caused pain is a good teacher. I say so, because pain is something most of us naturally want to avoid. This means that kids who did something 'wrong' will not necessarily stop 'doing wrong', but they will find other ways of avoiding the pain, e.g. by continuing to do what they did in a more secret manner.
Being creative and innovative might involve making the one or the other mistake, which is important to learn from.
Alternatives to corporal punishment offer many more and diverse options which focus more on showing that every action has its consequences. One of these consequences is accountability; while another is that a person learns and is encouraged to stand up for whatever they did. By allowing the 'young offenders' to also contribute to the search for appropriate consequences, we not only reduce their chances of repeating it but also increase their understanding of why what they did was not good.
So, why don't we just go this alternative route when we even have a law in place that prohibits corporal punishment? Well, even though this law was created with the best intentions, it comes across in a top-down manner and makes people 'being told what not to do' without them being genuinely supported in finding out what to do instead.
It therefore is so obvious to me that in the case of alternatives to corporal punishment, the problem does not lie with whether these alternatives (i.e. a more collaborative and respectful way of education) provide us with more diverse, better and even more effective options.
In conclusion, there is very wise and true saying that states: "If the only tool you have available is a hammer, you will treat every problem like a nail."
Hence, the whole issue of "Alternatives to Corporal Punishment" is about expanding our tool-box and about exploring/developing more and different ways helpful for us and those we are dealing with.
Most of all, it is a process which must include and involve the children and everyone else who is faced with questions around the education of our children.
At the end of the day, effective education balances freedom with clearly set boundaries. It hereby makes space for children to be free to be themselves and what their potentials are, while at the same time making them realise where their actions actually infringe on other people's freedom.
Hence, this societal discussion should not try to shoot any alternatives dead in their infancy stage, but should rather be about exploring and co-creating something new that our society needs so much: Alternatives to Violence!