I was filled with joy when I heard the ruling of Justice Yetunde Idowu of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja who ordered the proprietors of Cendom International Nursery and Primary School, Olodi-Apapa, Uche Owen, to pay 25 million naira as damages to a five-year-old pupil of the school, Destiny Kalu who was flogged and mistakenly blinded for owing school fee. The suit began in 2013, where Destiny, through his father claimed 30m as damages for severe injuries inflicted to his right eye.

School Discipline and its Importance

Discipline is a training that enables a person, or a group of people develop self-control. This individual obeys a set of laid down rules and deviation from these rules is met with punishment. Essentially discipline sets down limitations to individual behaviour.

In schools, students are taught to respect school authorities and observe school rules. They are taught respect for themselves and others. This is important in the production of a well-rounded individual because the society is made up of laid down rules of conduct. It also creates a safe, and fun filled environment for learning. The aim of discipline in a school is to help the students become well adjusted, useful members of the society. Students should be punished as a means to discourage unacceptable behaviours.

Punitive Measures in Nigerian School

The most common punitive measures in Nigerian schools are flogging, manual labour and physical punishments like kneeling. Most school in Nigeria do not have laid down punishments for minor offences and give the teacher’s unlimited discretion to determine the student’s punishments.

For major offences, punishments range from suspension to expulsion. The school board and its disciplinary committee must be involved in this punishment. The student’s perspective is heard before the decision is made.

Punishments in Other countries

Punishments in order countries can involve school tasks, corporal punishments, counselling, restorative punishment, suspension, and expulsion.

Corporal punishment includes chastising students with a cane, paddle, strap or yardstick. This is similar to what is practiced in Nigeria. This form of punishment has been banned by most Western countries. In United States of America, corporal punishment has been banned in 31 states. In China, School corporal punishment was banned by Article 29 of the Compulsory Education Act of the People’s Republic of China. In Australia, corporal punishment has been banned in most states

Suspension and expulsion are the same with Nigeria’s disciplinary system. In other countries, school tasks comprise of after-school detention and manual labour.

Counselling involves a visit to the schools counsellor. The purpose of counselling is to help the student recognise the problem with their behaviour and find ways to prevent it. For example, a student who is disorganised and constantly forgets his assignment at home would gain more benefit from a counselling section that teaches him organization skills than from corporal punishment.

Restorative justice seeks to correct the harm done by acknowledging the impact on the victim and community. Offenders accept responsibility for wrongdoing and are allowed to suggest the mode of redress. Punishments are carried out under the supervision of the school authorities.

The way forward

It is obvious that punishments are not only important in a school system but also necessary. The problem is not the punishment itself, but the mode and limit of a punishment. Who determines an offense worthy of punishment? Who determines the appropriate punishment for an offense? What punishments are non-acceptable in an educational institution?

Let’s analyse the case of Destiny Kalu, a student of Cendom International Nursery and Primary School. Whose duty is it to pay school fees? The child or the parent. If it is the parents duty, then what unacceptable behaviour has the child displayed, by not paying her school fees, that the school sort to correct through corporal punishment? Is, flogging a child till the child was blind, acceptable punishment for any offense? I applaud Justice Yetunde Idowu of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja for her judgment.

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