Ban on corporal punishment in schools, three years on


Prior to the ban on canning in basic and senior high schools, teachers used to punish students for a wide range of infractions, some serious, some extraordinarily minor. Some of these students’ misconducts are: making noise in class, truancy or absenteeism, bullying, fighting, stealing, disobedience or rudeness, and leaving the classroom or school.

Less frequent grounds for punishment included selling or using drugs in school, smoking, jumping over the school fence and using profanity. 

What does the bible says on these misconducts

The religious books such as the Holy bible in the book of Proverbs 23:13-14, portrays corporal punishment as a method of instilling corrective behaviour to wrong doers. “Do not withhold discipline from your child, if you punish him with the rod he will not die. Punish him with the rod, and save his soul from death.

However, due to this statement from the Holy bible, some teachers in the basic and Senior High Schools do abuse the use of corporal punishment on students.

GES Decision – 2017 / 2018 / 2019

For several years, the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education service, made some effort to enforce a policy to abolish all forms of corporal punishment, at all levels of the education system in Ghana, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was ratified in Ghana in 1990 and the Children’s Act of 1998 (Act 560).

As a result of the continuous abuse on the part of some teachers at the basic and senior high school [email protected], in 2017, The Ghana Education Services officially banned all forms of corporal punishment of children in schools in Ghana as part of efforts aimed at promoting a safe and protective learning environment for children. 

The Ghana Education service’s directive was issued in January 2019 that a Positive Discipline Toolkit which gives alternatives to corporal punishments is adopted by all teachers. Our Country is one of very many other countries that incorporated corporal punishment in its educational practices, as a procedure of penalizing and remedial technique. Of the many procedures of corporal punishment, caning was the prevalent in Ghanaian public and private basic and senior high schools, as a quick to administer form of punishment.

In the Ghanaian context, caning was a form of corporal punishment that involved using a piece of stick, ruler or the like to hit any part of another person’s body, either once or a number of times, with the purpose of causing pain to that person, for minor or serious offenses committed. Caning became applied both in school by teachers and at home by parents, older siblings and other well-meaning adults in Ghanaian communities, as a disciplinary procedure for children. In extreme cases, when caning is applied uncontrollably, it may cause severe injuries to the person subjected to such punishment.

Flash Back

Corporal punishment had been administered to Ghanaian students for decades before and after independence. The Ghana Education Service partially banned corporal punishment in schools in 1970s. However, head teachers were permitted to execute caning, either on their own or by appointing their assistant or a senior teacher, to school children because many teachers were abusing caning and injuring students.

As at 2017, Ghana was listed among 69 countries in which corporal punishment was legally permitted. This shows that caning was then not fully abolished in Ghanaian schools, a situation contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which forbids physical abuse of children by both parents and caregivers and was ratified by all member countries – including Ghana in 1990.

Often times, news items and letters, some of which were signed by the director general of the Ghana Education Service, were issued to caution teachers that caning, among all forms of corporal punishments, was prohibited and that any teacher found culpable would be sanctioned. Efforts to attain a complete ban on corporal punishment in schools were intensified in the years 2018 and 2019. The rules of professional conduct for teachers in Ghana stipulate among other things that teachers shall not administer any act of corporal punishment, or any act that causes physical pain or harm to their pupils/students such as pushing, pulling, hitting and/or flogging.

What is the stance of the law?

Interestingly, section 31(i) of The Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) provides that force or harm may be justified on the grounds of an authority to correct a child, servant, or other similar person, for misconduct.

Force used in the correction or discipline of children in Ghana have over the decades included corporal punishments like caning, kneeling down and spanking. Due to this, some people had lamented that, placing a ban on corporal punishments without a legislative amendment of Act 29 may not have the effective force of law needed to enforce the ban. The reason is that, the hierarchy of norms, a legislation passed by Parliament overrides a directive by a government agency operating under a Ministry.

Ghana Education Service letter dated 10thJanuary, 2019 with reference number GES/G&C-HQ/C/VOL.3 to all Regional Directors of education, signed by the Deputy Director-General (MS) for the Director-General.

At best, this directive may have been adopted by the Ministry of Education and considered as an administrative instrument. Section 32 of Act 29 provides the general limits of justifiable force or harm and adds that it must not extend beyond the amount and kind of force reasonably necessary for the purpose for which force is permitted to be used.

Section 3 of the Ghana Education Service Act, 1995 (Act 506) on functions of the Service provides that it is the duty of the Service to submit to the Minister recommendations for educational policies and programmes.

Stakeholders Observations and Concerns – Kasoa Environs (Awutu Senya East)

Respondent # 1 # Parent

I was very much excited when GES issued the directive on the ban on canning especially at the basic school level. Some teachers sometimes just feel like canning students. For instance, I was once informed by my ward that, they were in class one day, when their teacher asked them a question and he said that if those sitting at the back got the answer wrong he was going to cane the whole class.

Those students who were sitting in front raised their hands but he didn’t call them.  Those at the back got the answer wrong and the whole class was caned. Hence most students are being caned unfairly, for example, a whole class being punished for the wrong doing of a few pupils. Mr. Joshua how do you justify this? 

Respondent # 2 # Parent

Some teachers punish students with anger. This one is very bad. If you know you are going to penalize the student for the student to change for the better you don’t have to use your anger to do it, sometimes if you use your anger to do it you can hurt the child.

When an angered teacher canes you, the skin can just burst and blood will ooze out. If the teacher does not handle the cane very well it can enter into the student’s eye and cause damage to the student. Some of the students too don’t have good skin. I think the ban on canning was a good step.

Respondent (#3#) Head teacher

I think the idea of creating a conducive and protective learning environment for the child to learn especially at the basic level was a great move; however the total ban on corporal punishment has made some of my students wayward and very stubborn. I think minimal force to make the child conform to school regulations need to include some form of corporal punishment. Taking that away from a schools’ administration makes students hold school authorities hostage.

Respondent #4# (PTA Chairman)

A  PTA chairman informed the study that giving assignments should be another form of punishment that teachers should use to maintain classroom discipline.

According to him, a number of interviewed teachers reported to him that assignments assist students to be self-discipline, better managers, more inquisitive, more independent and more problem solving. Academically, weak and deviant students should be punished by giving more assignments than bright students.

Respondent #5# (Head teacher)

As a Headmistress, my general observation prior to the ban on corporal punishment has to do with some form of hatred which sometimes exists between a teacher and a student on grounds of personal issues.

When this happens, the teacher who has that kind of hatred for a student may conflict his or her personal issues whiles canning the student in the name of discipline. I am therefore in partly support of the decision by the Ghana Education Services.

Respondent # 6 #   (Parent)

Some teachers who inflict corporal punishment are often angry either from the house or elsewhere: their anger increases the level of force used beyond what was intended, and their intent may be retaliatory as well as punitive.

The use of corporal punishment against students creates an overall threatening school atmosphere that impacts students’ ability to perform academically.

Respondent # 7 # (Group of parents)

A group of parent also rated corporal punishment and its influence on students’ performance. They asserted that, corporal punishment should be used in schools when all other means have failed because it is the most effective means for correcting students’ misbehavior, as it brings order, control, and discipline in the classroom. It also prepares a learner’s mind in readiness for the learning process.  

Respondent # 8 # Parent

I don’t think a teacher should be harsh on a student. But if the student keeps on doing the same troublesome behavior then in those cases, the teacher should be allowed by GES to use the cane to cause them pain. Head teachers should invite the parents if the behavior is persistent. Head teachers may also resort to dismissal of students to serve as a deterrent to other students.

How do we reach a turning point in spite of the diverse views?

On the basis of the findings of this study conducted by Josh Academic and Professional Research Consult. The summary results indicate that some schools still use the cane but in a more responsible way administered by the Head teachers only. School administrators still believe that corporal punishment builds child’s character, conscience and respect for adult authority.

Also, most teachers, Head Teachers as well as some parents in the Awutu Senya East Environs in the Central Region of Ghana are not in support of the policy of the Ministry of Education on the total banned on canning in Ghanaian schools, and they would prefer that caning be continued in schools, but officially administered and authorized by only head teachers in a way that would not cause injury to students.

In addition, a retired Headmaster informed the study that basic and senior high schools should have guidance and counseling departments that counsel deviant students as a preliminary measure before any form of corporal punishment by only Head Teachers.

He added that a number of students sometimes do have challenges in their homes as a result of broken or single home and some of them too do experiences unfavorable treatments that do not contribute to their effectiveness. He emphasized that, not all teachers are trained for guidance and counseling, so it becomes difficult to deal with many indiscipline cases in basic and senior high schools.

He added that the use of verbal methods such as guiding and counseling of students through explanation and reasoning are likely to provide the child with more cognitive stimulation than the use of corporal punishment without induction.

This means that indiscipline outcomes may result if teachers who physically punish students make less use of inductive methods of discipline, such as explanation and reasoning procedures that are likely to enhance cognitive growth. Since these methods are learner friendly, the students will cooperate with the teachers.

One of the national services personnel in the Awutu Senya East Constituency also asserted that, poverty and home life might contribute to student’s inability to comply with a teacher’s wishes to report to school early, complete their homework or learn their lessons, regardless of whether the students had the necessary books or materials. Hence, canning such students may complicate issues and probable affect him or her mentally. Instead, Head teachers should be in charge and investigates the reasons behind the ineffectiveness of a reported student but not to be left in the hands of the individual teachers. Hence, some of the indiscipline students from lower-socioeconomic homes are likely to have more difficulty complying with school regulations. For instance they are likely to have difficulty completing assignment than their more well to do peers because they may not have a quiet, well lit place to do assignments.

Advisable Actions

There should be an amendment of the GES’ directives on the ban of canning to allow only Head teachers to have a right, if not a duty, to physically punish misbehaving students because corporal punishment builds character, develops a student’s conscience and command respect for adult authority. Thus, head teachers should do much of the canning because they are the discipline masters of schools and chairpersons of the disciplinary committees in the schools.

The writer is the CEO of Josh Academic and Professional Research Consult and Associate member of the Institute of Chartered Accountant, Ghana.TEL: 0548332922

Email: [email protected]/ [email protected]


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