Caning

When I traveled to Africa last time, I remember the most common question from students and teachers alike was, “Without corporeal punishment, how do you control the students?” So, I would explain that we have other forms of punishment to hold students accountable. One Principal in Tanzania explained that it’s the treat of the caning that works; they don’t end up caning very often.

Well, at Masi Tsati yesterday, I witnessed more caning than I care to. Maxwell had to attend to some emergency business in the neighboring town, so the “Head Teacher” had all 6 classrooms (approximately 200 students) in his care. During the normal Wednesday morning routine of lining up according to class and having morning songs and worship for an hour, some of the students in the back were fooling around. A random group was selected to come to the front of the whole school to be caned and made an example of.

I could see a typical teaching life anywhere unfold in front of me (minus the caning); frustrated teacher, too much messing around, frustrated teacher takes action, and innocent students suffer the consequences. There is one boy that I’ve taken a particular liking to–he’s in 5th grade, but looks more like he’s in 7th. He’s really helpful in his village and has one of the saddest faces I’ve ever encountered. I was watching him during the morning routine, and he wasn’t messing around, though he was one of the students in the random group the Head Teacher selected for punishment. My heart hurt watching… He’s tough and will of course be fine, but there’s something so depressing about injustices.

P.S. There are many, many kids I’ve taken a particular liking to, not just the sad-looking one.

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About Margit Boyesen

Teacher. Photographer. Traveler.

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