Children are at school to learn, not get beaten

It is clearly insufficient to expect laws and decrees to be an effective method to combat corporal punishment in schools

Yara al-Wazir

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It emerged this week that Egyptian child Bibawi Farajallah was beaten by his teacher after asking another pupil to move his head so he could see the blackboard that the teacher was writing on. The teacher used an electric wire to strike Farajallah 40 times.

The child’s father recounted the barbaric act in an interview with Al Arabiya News. Schools are meant to represent a safe place for children to learn and develop.

The evidence is overwhelming and saddening; A 20-year study in the Canadian Medical Journal Association indicated that corporal punishment is severely detrimental to a child’s cognitive development, and the effects last well into adulthood. It makes kids aggressive rather than teaching them self-control. A similar study based in Tanzania showed that 21% of children who had been subject to physical punishment showed aggression towards authority, as well as elevated levels of hyper-activity. Additionally, it affects the ability of a child to interact with members of their families, their moral and motivation, and how they view cultural values.

In Egypt, corporal punishment is actually banned. The statistics regarding how many young Arabs have been subject to corporal punishment at schools is sparse, but data from UNICEF and UNRWA suggests that it is in the millions.

A school principal based in Saudi Arabia has described banning corporal punishment to be a “threat” to teachers. The authority and credibility of a teacher is not linked to whether or not the have the legal right to physically punish a child, and it must not be viewed that way. The credibility of a teacher is a function of their ability to educate a child.

There are numerous effective alternatives for disciplining children

Understanding what it is they are seeking, using their first name, and communicating in a way that they can relate to are all methods that science (and practice) have proved successful in getting to the root cause of problematic behaviour. The key taking is to remain calm in order to communicate effectively and connect emotionally, rather than physically punish a child. These methods have been tried and tested and are a summary of what appears in numerous psychological journals and magazines.

It is clearly insufficient to expect laws and decrees to be an effective method to combat corporal punishment in schools. Instead, there must be a behavioural change from both parents and teachers.

Parents need to make a decision as to how they want their child to be raised, and what their definition of a successful school education is: is it a fearful child who has trouble with authority and believes violence is the only method to achieve discipline? Or is a successful school one where the child feels comfortable, motivated, and learns effectively? In order to make this decision, parents need to be informed of the impact that physical discipline may have on their child’s development.

It is clearly insufficient to expect laws and decrees to be an effective method to combat corporal punishment in schools.

Yara al-Wazir

Once the decision is made, it is their responsibility to lobby schools to respect the way in which they have chosen to raise their child. Parents are ultimately the main customers of the school, and once they pressure school management to take their children’s development as seriously as the school takes education, then their child can succeed.

Yara al-Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.