Writ'It ! Chronicle

Corporal Punishment: What you have to know

21 juillet 2020

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

What is Corporal Punishment ?

Corporal punishment is also called physical punishment. As any punishment, its objective is to get the student to understand that his/her behavior or action is wrong, so that he will not repeat it another time. Physical punishment is a form of punishment that inflicts a physical pain to the victim.

In Benin and in other African countries, corporal punishment is more a cultural or traditional trait. Children are raised in the fear of being whipped. Thus, the whip represented the first pinnacle of correction. This attitude has been reflected in the teaching process, the teacher being convinced that the more the child was correctly whipped, the better he will retain the lesson.

Corporal punishment does not only refer to the whiplashes, but it also refers to head knocks, ears pulled and sometimes to the point of bloodshed. Corporal punishment is also concerned when you decide to slap a kid, with or without all your might.

What do you think of corporal punishment ? [Short Interviews]

These were their answers regarding what they think of corporal punishment in educational process.

«I'm against corporal punishment because it terrorizes the class, so that the student doesn't even learn, doesn't understand the course, doesn't follow the teacher. (...) The time has passed, so we must no longer use bickering to teach. (...) I was regularly hit by the teacher in fifth grade. I couldn't even manage to eat on Monday at break time. This made me hate mathematics from that moment on. I even got a 4 for my baccalaureate. I can say that it was this punishment that led me there. (...) I propose that we fight effectively and rigorously against corporal punishment, and that the laws follow. Without corporal punishment, the child can learn well. Therefore, the teacher must be educated and master the didactics. (...)», Aicha CHABI OROU, student-teacher at Ecole Normale Superieure, Spanish department, 100 level.

«In my opinion, this is not the only solution. I'm not really for it. (...) We can give him a punishment other than corporal punishment. Corporal punishment may work on some weak-minded children, but in others it strengthens character and stupidity. In the end, it is the opposite effect that is observed. On the other hand, when the child is spoken to gently and firmly, he will eventually understand and repent of his wrong way.», Orderic BARNOR, web developer and analyst.

«(...) Corporal punishment allows the pupil to see his faults and to take seriously what he is accused of. If we remove corporal punishment from teaching, it will create a big problem because nothing will frighten the child anymore, will help him to channel himself so that he can concentrate on his studies.(...)», Adelphe Leonce SOSSOU, student-teacher at Ecole Normale Superieure, German department, 100 level.

An anonymous person claimed that:
«the more a child is whipped in his elementary school, the less he needs whip in the following courses, because his basis is strong enough. But those who have had the good fortune or bad luck will need it all the following courses long to strengthen their knowledge».

In total, out of 25 people interviewed, 20 are against the Corporal Punishment.

Why’s that ?

Corporal Punishment is a physical abuse towards children. It is a kind of slavery, but in a better justified way than what happened before (and continues to happen anyway, but that’s not the point).

It hurts the children. Beating a child causes physical pain and wounds. They may be mitigated, cured, but the child will not understand how on earth you could punish him so badly just because of a slight misconduct. Are you not a man like him ? Is it not true that to err is human ? Then, why … ?

Corporal Punishment also opens psychological wounds. These are less manipulable and more demanding than the previous. Psychological disorders have to be taken very gently, because they affect any other life domain, and cause serious problems in the future and to balanced life. You never know when a simple head knock will be responsible for school phobia.

What the Law says

In Benin, the Government forbids Corporal Punishment in educational system. It is seen as a form of violence towards non adult individuals.

Article 119
from Law n° 2015-08 bearing code of the child in the Republic of Benin of January 23, 2015 states that All forms of corporal punishment are prohibited in schools, schools for children and schools for adults, vocational learning centres and in childcare facilities. (Translated from the original French text)

However, there is no clear information as to the criminal and social penalty incurred by the teacher who does not comply with this recommendation. This may be the main reason why most of the teachers in Benin continue to use this method.

Red Card: Verbal abuse

As an alternative to corporal punishment, some teachers think that verbal abuse is a good option. They may not be aware of that, but they start insulting their pupils, thinking it’s the best way to show their authority. WRONG. Absolutely wrong.
You don’t have to pierce eardrums of degrading, insulting, negative words to get them understand they’re wrong.

«When I was in 4e, I had a woman as a mathematics teacher. She compared me a lot to my twin brother, who was brighter than me. From the beginning to the end of the year, every word that was said to me reflected how bad I was, how I had to take my twin brother as an example, to the point that my brother too was becoming more and more affected and uncomfortable. Being a colleague of my mother's, she used the excuse that my mother was killing herself for me, to throw my inadequacy in my face. Her words may have sounded encouraging to her, but on the contrary, anyone else could see how humiliating they were. By the time I was in 3e, I was preparing to take the BEPC long form (literary series). But when I found out that she was going to be in charge of doing mathematics, I deserted the class and ended up in a science series with my brother. I didn't have the average that corresponded to me with this series, so I lost opportunities. But I had been able to escape from that lady: that was the main thing.» Anonymous, a highschool student.

This testimony reflects the negative effects of verbal abuse. It may not cause physical injuries to the victims, but the consequences are the same, or even worse, as Corporal Punishment.  There is a saying that
The word is like water: once it's poured, it can't be collected”.
This is exactly what we have to keep in mind. Teachers and adults have to be aware that each word always has an impact, and acts may act either as a sword or as a glue. How do you know it will act as a glue ? Consider your student’s background, and think twice before uttering a word.

Alternatives to Corporal Punishment

There are many other ways to inhibit or stop stubbornness than Corporal Punishment.
  • Unpleasant activities: Students don’t like activities that can make their peers laugh at them. As punishment, you can make your kid student wash the school toilets, or sweep the school yard 2 consecutive days. Physical activities like bat or pushups may also help them be smarter.
  • Obnoxious exercises: Second alternative is to oblige them make exercises a large amount of exercises. For example, you can make your student copy 1001 times “No one is dumb” for next class, if he had insulted one of his peers as a dumb.
  • Positive reinforcement removal: If you used to reinforce your students after a good behaviour, try negative reinforcement when a bad behaviour occurs and see the result. Negative reinforcement is the absence or the removal of positive reinforcement. This is recommended for fair mistakes.
  • Detention hours: You can also apply detention hours technique.
  • Reduction in marks: Some teachers apply this method and find it’s not bad. We know students are fond of marks. 

Moreover, teacher attitude and physical appearance are the first and best arms that he/she has to impose respect and good climate in his classroom. The teacher imposes himself/herself to the students since the first class day. The tone and posture must be firm and give a sufficient warning.


  • It is important to vary the punishment so that student do not get used to, and finally have fun. Punishment must never provide pleasure: it always has to satirize.
  • A high intensity punishment never guarantees that the error will never happen again. Plus, it may be really negative to your classroom climate. A medium-term punishment is the best and recommended level of intensity, for a punishment to be efficient.
  • There must be punishment every time bad behaviour occurs. No punishment program is required.
  • Punishment must intervene without delay after the misbehaviour. This way, the kid associates the punishment to the bad behaviour and easily drop it.

Do you know other alternatives to Corporal Punishment ? Tell us !

Hugs, #KhashHmv