Caning: The Old Boy Responds

Dear Dr. Power

I appreciate all the advice from the people who wrote in response to your blog. I just wanted to let you know how things have proceeded from the first incident.

In the past two weeks, following the Monday in which I first saw caning by a teacher, caning has only happened once more. Fortunately it was the next day, another testing day, so my absence from the school was not greatly missed. I think my second departure started a conversation about the issue, as teachers were concerned as to why I was leaving in the middle of the day. It also may have, I hope, decreased the tendency for teachers to cane as it has been almost 8 school days since the last caning.

From a couple of conversations with teachers in the staff room, I have learned not surprisingly that caning is a cultural thing. It’s not merely an issue that one can cross a line through and be done away with it. It’s related to the structure of the family, community, and government.

A teacher stated that the 15 kids who had failed 5th grade last year said that they would have passed if they had been caned more. I am not entirely sure how accurate this statement is, but in talking to kids, the general sentiment seems true. Parents tell the teachers to cane the children. The teachers feel obligated to cane the kids, and the entire process creates an environment where physical and verbal abuse from teachers, which would be out of line in North America, is a part of the norm at a primary school in Uganda.

A specifically revealing piece of information came in a debate that the teachers had in the staff room over whether they could actually teach their child if he or she was in their class. Most said no because their child would see them as a father and not a teacher. The teacher/student relationship for them is one of fear and respect. They seek order from their students. There is no real sense that they are role models, mentors or are really on the kids’ side.

To say the least, things are a lot different compared to UCC.

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