Simpa Panyin: Jesus Christ and the making of corporal punishment

Simpa Panyin: Jesus Christ and the making of corporal punishment
Source: Ghana | James Kofi Annan |
Date: 19-12-2018 Time: 01:12:19:pm

Several years ago when I returned from the Lake, I had sought for admission in many schools in Winneba, but none was willing to accept me. I was then 13 years. At that age I could neither read nor write. I couldn’t even recite ABCD or 123.

Looking at my body contours, and the vengeance written on my face, many of the schools were afraid that if they admitted me into the lower primary classes, I might abuse the children, and perhaps have negative influence on them. Meanwhile, they could not admit me in any upper class too because I did not have what it took to be in class five or class six.

Eventually, I went to the Life Corps School, which at that time had collapsed, and government had just taken over to revive it for the Sankor community. The Assistant Headmaster, who was also a prolific subsistence farmer, requested that I brought him some vegetative cassava sticks for planting, as a condition to provide me with the needed admission to the school. It was only after providing the sticks was I admitted into class six.  

There was a striking difference between the rest of the pupils and myself, as expected. They spoke and wrote good English while I watched them, sheepishly. I had absolutely no idea, what they spoke about, as the only language permitted in the school were English and French, and I understood none.

The Assistant Headmaster who admitted me into the school was the same person who taught me French and Environmental Studies. In the course of the first term he had conducted a test in French, and I got zero. It was the multiple choice answer type of questions. After he had marked the papers, he wrote the correct answers on the blackboard for us to copy.

Having successfully learnt how to write the ABCDs from the Kindergarteners, I religiously copied the answers that the teacher had provided on the board into my exercise books, and went home to memorize them.

The following week the same teacher conducted another test, also a multiple choice type of questions, this time around the test was in Environmental Studies. I walked into the examination room full of energy, and excitement, that this time around I was not going to get zero, for I knew I had mastered the art of writing correct answers.

The start work bell sounded, and bam! I wrote the answers that was provided by the teacher in the previous week’s French exams, into the spaces provided for the Environmental Studies test, in exactly the order I had memorized them, for I could not differentiate between French and English, thereafter I walked away thinking I had scored 100% in that test.

The following day I noticed the teacher had arrived in the class unusually early and was in a certain kind of rage and anger. I never attributed anything to myself, for I was so expectant of getting applause from the class.

As the entire class got seated, the teacher pulled out one paper, and mentioned my name; James Annan! Then he followed up with come forward! I was now unsure what that meant, as this teacher held in his hands the heaviest cane I had ever seen.

As soon as I got to him, he held me, and started caning me; he caned me heavily, with unlimited strength, and hit everywhere, my face, back, chest, and the final stretch, as I was hiding away from him, landed on my testicles!

The other day I was told Jesus Christ got angry and caned several men and women who were selling in his father’s house. The Messiah did not cane children. He caned adults, but that action by Christ could be interpreted, in today’s world, as violence against women. 

I never ever caned my son, Kofi, yet he was the Best Behaved Pupil when he was graduating from Kindergarten. I have never caned my 21-year-old daughter, yet she was always a prefect in nearly all the schools she has attended, to the extent that even in the University, the ICGC campus ministry selected her to lead the women’s wing.

A few weeks ago my son hit his sister, something I’m sure he picked from school to the point that the sister wept uncontrollably. I saw the action, and for the first time, I nearly reacted against my avowed principle, of never caning my children. I looked at him, straight into his eyes, and I knew he had seen the disappointment in my eyes. Then I saw tears dropping from his eyes, for he knew that he had disappointed me.

In the midst of his tears, I drew closer and calmly hugged him, and whispered into his ears, “I love you Kofi”. After I left him I saw that he had walked, apologetically, to his crying sister, and said to her, “I’m sorry Ekua”. He kept saying I’m sorry, until his sister stopped crying, holding hands as they headed to their room.

There is irrefutable evidence to show that corporal punishment leads to low performance. In my school, for the ten good years that the school was in existence, I never allowed corporal punishment of any sort, yet the school produced 100% BECE results for all the four consecutive years that I was in charge.

My experience with the benevolence assistant headmaster who caned me to the point of destroying my properties turned whatever love I had for him, into seeing him as a potential murderer, and that impression never left me until several years later. I came to be so afraid of him, so much so that each time I saw him, I felt some pains in my testicles, as though the pains were as real as the moment he was inflicting them.

I am raising this issue not because Christ died for you and me, or not because Shirley Ayorkor Botchway is believed to have attempted to assault Sam George. I am raising this issue because as we celebrate Christ, we might need to reflect on how it feels like when we are hit by objects. The Bible says we are made in the likeness of God. Inflicting pains in the body of the other person could be likened to beating Christ in retaliation for his whipping of the women in the church.

There have been stories of children who have lost their eyes or even died due to corporal punishment. Some young girls have been forced into menstruating due to the severity of the punishments they received in the hands of their teachers. I don’t want to wish my childhood testicular pains on any school child. But may we resolve that the year 2019 shall present a new beginning, in our thoughts, and our values towards our children? And may it be said that we took positive steps in bringing out the best in our children, till Christ come!