Authorities allowed slide in discipline

HAVE children no right to be brought up as disciplined persons? All our sympathy and tears are not going to bring back Nhaveen, or any of the other children who suffered at the hands of other children.

Their blood is on the hands of the authorities who allowed discipline in our educational institutions to deteriorate to such a deplorable level.

The primary role of educational institutions should be character development so that whether a child scores 10A's or 10F's, they will grow up into well behaved persons who respect law and order.

It is amazing how adults, and especially those trained to handle children, like teachers, cannot be in control of and discipline errant children.

Assaulting, injuring and killing others is not child's play. But children who may start showing aggressive behaviour from as young as three do not know this. If not corrected, such behaviour becomes ingrained and gets worse with time.

By destroying school discipline, serious damage is done to society as the indisciplined schoolchildren will only become bolder with the passing years and will think nothing of inflicting torture and death on others.

Such violence, and other criminal behaviour, become "normal" behaviour. Thus there is strong co-relation between deterioration of discipline in schools and increase in crime.

But the authorities are in denial of this fact. Is it the fault of these violent children that they have grown up to become such persons?

Society may not accept it, but these children are the victims of an education system that has failed to instil discipline, giving various excuses and theories for such failure.

Sending Nhaveen's, or Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain's attackers to the gallows may be seen as "justice" by the families of the victims. But is it justice to the attackers who were not disciplined from the time they began showing traits of violence that progressed from "playfulness" to "murderous"?

Would these children be in court now if their aggressive and violent behaviour had been corrected as soon as it was first seen, be it with the rod? Various parties have come up with suggestions to improve school discipline. Are any of these tried and tested methods that really work?

For example, psychologists, children's experts (some may just be armchair experts), defenders of children's rights including those in Unicef and the UN, always speak of the "soft" approach to discipline children as they cannot imagine a light cane being used to do so.

To them, the very thought of using a light cane is "corporal punishment" which is "child abuse" and which only "widens the circle of violence".

Are these mere perceptions or based on hard evidence?

So, they mean to say our forefathers who believed in "spare the rod and spoil the child" were stupid, violent people?

Spanking is a discipline method defined as striking a child on the buttocks or extremities "without inflicting physical injury" and with the intent to modify behaviour.

I for one strongly believe that spanking is very effective in changing child misbehaviour, but it must be done judiciously, and only when other methods fail.

What the Ministry of Education should do is carry out a proper study by throwing a challenge to all those who have suggestions for tackling school indiscipline, using their "soft approach" or the rod, to take up full-time appointment as "counsellors" or "discipline masters" for at least one full year, in primary or secondary school as they choose, and prove their theories.

There should be no interference in their work and neither should they be bogged down by red tape.

Then have child psychologists, paediatricians, and other specialists to closely monitor and study the effects of those methods, especially in the case where the "rod" is used.

They should not make a fuss about one or two cane marks, though. As I firmly believe that the rod is still the best tool for correcting child misbehaviour in early childhood, and I hasten to say that not all children need it, I am willing to take charge of disciplinary matters in a primary school that has disciplinary problems and prove my point, for using the rod is most effective when done early in childhood.

There should be no political interference or any red tape such as requirement for witnesses for every stroke of the cane dispensed. Using the rod is most effective when done on the spot (when misbehaviour is spotted) and not after a delay.

Ravinder Singh
Penang