Feature Article of Saturday, 20 October 2012

Columnist: Wondoh, John

Child Abuse in Schools

Education is of enormous importance to most
Ghanaians as it is seen as a gateway out of poverty or basically a gateway to
better living conditions. Due to this, most parents do all they can to ensure
that their children gain education. Education in Ghana can be considered to be
free even up to the tertiary level, thus making education readily available to
most Ghanaians. The Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE)
programme introduced in 1995 promised free basic education by 2005.
Unfortunately this target was not attained due to the fact that it did not
abolish all forms of fees and could not induce a significant reduction in the
indirect cost associated with schooling. It however reduced the cost of basic
education in Ghana, thus making education more available to Ghanaians. Senior
high schools students, if they are boarders, are only required to pay for their
feeding, PTA (Parent Teacher Association) dues and other user fees. Also in
tertiary institutions, the only monetary requirements of the students are the
Academic Facility User Fee and accommodation fees. Due to the low income level
of most Ghanaians, these fees are unbearable to many parents and guardians. The
government of Ghana however continues to pump more money into education as a
measure to eradicate illiteracy and poverty. Compared to other African
countries, Ghana invests more in education.

Although, Ghana takes much pride in the
education of her citizens, some of the approaches in this process might be
considered as unethical as they end up leaving a negative impact on the learned
Ghanaian. Unfortunately these practices among educators seem to go unnoticed by
the government and stakeholders hence nothing seems to be done to minimize such
misconduct. One issue worth discussing is the methods used by Ghanaian
educators to instill discipline in educational institutions. Learning is
defined as acquiring
knowledge or developing the ability (skills) to perform new behaviors. Learning
occurs in every stage of human development but it is more pronounced at the
early stages. At this stage of development, children learn to distinguish between
right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is improper and carry this with
them for the rest of their lives. This knowledge is acquired by emulating
adults and by the things these children see, hear or experience. Today,
children spend most of their time in school because parents have to work extra
hard due to economic crisis. This has resulted in parents spending insufficient
time with their children. Parents tend to leave the responsibility of nurturing
their children to the professionals in the schools. Unfortunately, these
professionals on most occasions end up causing more harm than good.

Disciplinary actions of teachers on
pupils often tend to have adverse physical, mental and emotional effects on the
pupils. Educators should be able to distinguish between what child abuse is and
what punishment is. Child abuse is defined asmaltreatment
of a child by a parent, guardian, or other adult responsible for his or her
welfare, e.g. physical violence, neglect, sexual assault, or emotional cruelty.
Two examples of
inappropriate punishments in schools are as follows; a student comes late to
school and is made to kneel outside the classroom for hours as a punishment or
a student scores a low mark in a test and receives six lashes to make him learn
harder. These actions obviously are examples of child abuse and are not the
right methods of instilling discipline in the student. They do not result in any
positive improvement in the child’s attitude or make the child smarter as well.
This type of child abuse is termed as physical abuse. This is deliberately using
force against a child
in such a way that the child iseither injured or is at
risk of being injured. The effects of this type of abuse may be instantaneous
or long term.

Another scenario of child abuse in
schools is when a teacher continually humiliates some students publicly usually
because these students do not perform as the other students. This form of abuse
is termed emotional abuse or cruelty. Emotional
abuse causes impairment to the child's self-esteem. It includes acts
that may result in, or place a child at risk of serious behavioral, emotional
or mental health problems. It is expected of professional educators to know
these facts and not in any way give special treatment to some students based on
their academic performance. Unfortunately this is not the case in most schools;
students with bad scores are branded as lazy students without any other
possible contributing factors being considered. There are a number of factors
that can cause a student to perform poorly academically which include dyslexia,
inability to properly understand examination questions, nervousness under
examination conditions and so on. The duty of the teacher is not only to teach
but also to help identify certain problems that students may be facing and find
pragmatic solutions to such problems. A careful study
of these factors that might be affecting students can lead to much more logical
solutions to the students’ academic problems.
issue of interest in school is the fact that some teachers take advantage of
students sexually. This can take the form of fondling, making a child touch the abusive
individual sexually or betouched sexually, rape, sodomy,
exhibitionism, or involving achild in prostitution or child
pornography.These girls and sometimes boys that are
being abused are usually below eighteen (18) years and this therefore makes
abusing them sexually with or without their consent a very serious crime as
they are seen by the law as minors. Some teachers however ignore some of the
consequences. Usually, this is as a result of lack of self-control and
sometimes strong affection for children or teenagers as in the case of

Considering the possible causes of these misconducts
among teachers, it would be realised that the causes usually originate from the
training these teachers undergo. Inadequate training results in teachers not
having the prerequisite skills to properly handle students. Understanding child
psychology and behavioural patterns are very essential skills required by
teachers to ensure the appropriate upbringing of a child. Thus the course
structure of teacher training colleges and other institutions offering
education educational programmes should incorporate such courses that would
enable teachers have a firm grip on some of these important skills to enable
them understand and handle children properly. However, this might not
completely solve our problems of child abuse in schools. The issue of using
untrained teachers in schools requires very serious attention. Whereas trained
teachers may not have all the crucial skills required to properly raise
children, most untrained teachers hardly have any skill at all. The use of
untrained teachers mainly is as a result of lack of teachers in the educational
sectors thus resulting in the need for supplementary teachers. Therefore, the
need for untrained teachers cannot be over emphasised. However, the upbringing
of children is very critical to national growth and development and therefore
every necessary means of raising children up in the right way should be
implemented. Thus the need for untrained teachers to go through some sort of
training before being posted to schools and subsequent training while working
as teachers to help equip them with the skills needed.

Nevertheless, these are not enough to ensure that the
future leaders of our nation are in good hands. Lack of motivation of teachers
may as well result in child abuse and attitudes of teachers that might affect
the lives of children negatively. It is normal if people want to be motivated
or appreciated even in doing their duties. If teachers do not receive enough
income in order to meet their needs, they might tend to put their frustrations
on students, influencing them unconstructively. Thus, it is expedient that
sufficient income and other incentives be provided to ensure that teachers are
satisfied and their well being been taken care of.

Lack of self-control is another issue that is worth
noting. Unlike the other issues already considered, self-control is a personal
character of an individual and therefore it becomes very difficult to quantify
or estimate the amount of self-control a person has before he is recruited into
the teaching field. Self-control is the ability for one to control his or her
behaviour, thus if teachers are unable to put their behaviour under control,
then they may tend to behave in unacceptable ways. This may result in child
molesting among others. Teachers therefore should try as much as possible to
put their behaviour in check to ensure a safe environment for teaching and
learning. This would ensure that students are out of harm’s way and teachers do
not break the laws of the nation.
These are some of the problems facing Ghanaian
education, their causes and some suggested solutions to these problems.
However, these problems are not limited only to Ghana but other countries may
have similar problems and as such these issues should be addressed to ensure
healthy development of the students.
John Wondoh