Posted by: Viola | October 17, 2014

Things I would change in Cameroonian schools

If there is one thing I wish I could change, in Cameroonian schools, it is the beating or corporal punishment of students/pupils. This is one thing I wish I could change. If I could accomplish this one thing, in my lifetime, it would be a major achievement. And it would bring me so much joy. To see kids go to school and know that they will not be beaten or struck and caused to feel the physical and psychological pain of corporal punishment.

There are other things I would love to change–other kinds of child abuse and injustice. Yes, there are a lot of things I want to change. Verbal abuse and insults in schools. I would change that. Sexual abuse and sexual harassment of students (female students). I would change that. Yes, that would be at the top of my list. Too many girls in Cameroon suffer from sexual harassment and assault. But these are all big and ambitious goals. It is good to start somewhere, or maybe just start anywhere.

If I ever get to be in a position of some influence, in Cameroon, the first thing I will do is make sure that the law is upheld. Cameroonian law protects children from being beaten in schools. The law is on the side of the children. But the law is so completely disregarded that it is probably no use trying to assert the legal rights of children in schools in Cameroon. Most teachers and families (parents, guardians) are probably not aware of the legal rights of children, especially in the schools (and elsewhere, for that matter).

Many Cameroonians will argue that they were never *abused* in school. But many will also openly confess to experiencing being beaten so many times that they cannot count them or even remember them. Being beaten is taken as normal by many students and parents. Corporal punishment is seen as just an ordinary part of teaching methods or styles–a useful method of discipline and the way school works for everyone. Teachers beat students. Headmasters beat students. And in some schools, students (seniors) beat other students (juniors).

And yes, I was beaten at several schools I attended in Cameroon. It was so traumatic for me that it’s left me with a desire to see no child experience this same beating. I hope corporal punishment is on the decline in Cameroonian schools. I hope it will come to an end someday soon. But from what I understand, it’s still a very routine practice, with beatings being a common and rampant occurrence–some schools worse than others, some teachers and administrators more violent than others.

This is tragic. Physical violence, taking the form of corporal punishment or physical discipline, is a grievous abuse of power. It involves the inflicting of pain to a number of parts of the body of a child or student–for instance, hands/palms, fingers, shins, calves, buttocks, thighs, back, and head. Corporal punishment has the potential to cause serious bodily injury and can do severe, lasting psychological and emotional damage to a child.

If we all do our part to speak up, whenever we can, and question the status quo, maybe the use of corporal punishment in Cameroonian schools will come to an end. Here is hoping that our voices and words do make a difference. Education is so important, so crucial for every child. Children have the right to an education, as good an education as can be made available to them. And that means an education free of physical harm and free of abuse and intimidation.

I believe that being safe and free from violence at school is just as important as being able to attend school. And here is my wish: that a day will come when all children, in Cameroon and beyond, can wake up and go to school, and when they get to school, know that they are safe and protected, and they can do their scholarly work without fear of violence, and maybe even have an enjoyable time learning. Yes, maybe even have a very, very, very happy and fun day at school.

I believe this: Learning ought to be a thing of wondrous joy. This academic joy is what I wish for every child on earth. And looking back on my childhood, it is what I would have wished for myself. ❤

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