Report: Corporal punishment to discipline children unnecessary

Dar es Salaam. A new report from Save the Children has suggested that physical and humiliating punishments are detrimental to the development of the children.
The report dubbed: Cost Effective Investment on Early Childhood Development was presented on Friday during the breakfast debate organized by Policy Forum.

During the presentation, Save the Children said caregivers, community members and teachers should adopt alternative positive discipline methods instead of physical and humiliating approaches.

Tabling the presentation, Save the Children director of program development and quality Jane Mbagi Mutua said research found that more caregivers and teachers agreed that physical punishment is not necessary for disciplining children at End line than at Midline.
“At End line, 58 percent of caregivers in the treatment compared to 69 percent in the control group agreed that physical punishment is necessary for disciplining children, as did 58 percent treatment group I as compared to 59 percent of treatment II,” she said.

According to her, for treatment areas, the increase was equivalent to five percent as compared to the midline.
She said a higher proportion of female caregivers than males in treatment areas reported using violence-free parenting strategies in the past month.

Furthermore, she said caregivers in both treatment areas stated that beating a child for disciplinary reasons does not constitute violence.
“Respondents justified that using physical punishment to correct their children as long as the child was made aware of why they were being punished, and the intensity of the punishment was minimal. However, if the child was repeatedly hit for no reason, that would mean violence,” she said.

But, reached for clarifications yesterday, Ms Mutua said research had three categories with the baseline standing for foundation; midline for the middle and endline for final evaluations.

“You collect data at the foundation stage to determine the magnitude of the problem. At the middle data are collected to measure the progress of change following undertaken interventions,” she said.
“At the end of the project, data is collected to provide final evaluation at which interventions have worked out,” she added.

Furthermore, she said treatment groups during research are referred to members of the community given intervention measures or capacity building training in order to bring change.

According to her, control groups are members of the community facing a similar challenge but no intervention is extended to them.

“For Instance, village ‘A’ could be trained on discipline, abandoning corporal punishment and violence against children etc which is referred as a treatment group,” she said.
“Another village facing similar challenges could be denied the services, therefore, it is referred to as a control group. But, when data is collected from the control group, change could be seen despite absence of intervention measures,” she said.

Likewise, collected data from the treatment group will provide changes made after being subjected to intervention measures, noting that whenever there were no changes indicates that provided interventions had no impacts.

“But, if the percentage of people in the group who believed on physical and corporal punishment decreased as compared to the percentage in the control group due to interventions made, the conclusion would be that undertaken measures had positive impacts,” she said.
“Therefore, Save the Children said physical and humiliating punishments are detrimental to children development. Our encouragement for community members, caregivers and teachers is to use alternative positive discipline methods and not physical and humiliating methods,” added Dr Mutua.

According to her, teachers and parents should realise that it is detrimental to children development when physical and humiliating punishments are applied.
She said it is wrong to compare the discipline of children in the past years to those of the present years, noting that the two were facing different challenges.

“In the past there were no internet as compared to recent years where there is a huge flow of information. There is however a balance between then and now,” she said.
“We shouldn’t throw everything that used to be part of discipline. However, we are against physical and humiliating punishment because beating a child for instance teaches violence,” she added.
Ms Mutua said violence is a counter product, emphasizing that a balance should be found between what worked without damaging a child and what is currently done.

Detailing on the centre of the problem, she said parents have nowadays absconded parenting roles, noting that children are nowadays left at home with housemaids.

“Children are bringing themselves up. You can’t compare without looking at the environment the children were growing up. The past and present environments are completely different, but it is about finding a balance, but in doing so physical and humiliating punishments should not be part of it,” she said.
“This is because, apart from damaging children, they teach them violence. Beating shouldn’t be done to children at all, it is not acceptable whether at school or at home,” she emphasized.

She outlined several alternative disciplined methods including talking to children, withdrawing privileges, explaining reasons of withdrawal and consequences of what they are doing.
She was seconded by Mr Godwin Mongi who said study was supposed to come up with a plan to prepare and establish the national program.

The plan could provide citizens with the guideline on children upbringing and development, protection, parents’ roles, investment and nutrition issues, according to him.
“Beating a child after doing mistakes kills brain capabilities and thinking abilities. The society is responsible in making them better future citizens,” she said.

Also, Ms Florah Emmanuel from the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (Tawla) said her organization have been receiving under numerous cases of defilement involving children staring 11 years old.
“When asked children say they were scared to report the violence to their parents fearing to be beaten. Parents should friendly talk to children in order to encourage them to report challenges they were facing,” she said.

Mr Joachim Paul said corporal punishment cultivates the spirit of fear and diminishes children confidence from tender age.
“This is dangerous in building the nation of confidence people especially in standing against issues they believe,” she said.

When contacted, a parent, Ms Lucy Tomeka said punishment to children is rooted from the Holy Bible, noting that Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
“So, being the first child my parents were blessed with, it was their clearly God-given to never spare the rod on my poor black behind. And I mean never. I was flogged fro all small wrongdoings,” she told The Citizen.

“I’m doing the same to my boy. But, not everyone has the right to whip my child even his teachers in school. I would go to school whenever such reports reaches me,” he said.
“Parents are supposed to design and execute disciplinary measures fitting their children. Otherwise, there are times children should have feelings that parents are there to protect them,” she added.

But another parent, who preferred anonymity, said children need a slight flogging to scare them from misbehaving.
“Gifts could be withdrawn as part of punishment, but moderate whipping should continue at the very moment they do mistakes,” she said.

She said the ongoing technological development require parents to have tough decisions against their children, noting that laughing at children’s mistake is like a bomb that will have huge consequences upon exploding.
“Children are very clever, whenever they are punished for their wrongdoings they may not make verbal admiration, but a sense of regret can be seen on their faces,” she said.

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