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Carrot And Stick Discipline

Another school year has started with the usual worries of security for pupils and students, especially in urban centres where hazards abound.

The first signal came with the appalling identification of drugs in the bags of some students of Government High School Elig-Essono in Yaounde less than two weeks into the resumption of classes. Such a discovery more than justifies the decision by the Delegate General for National Security to create a Police Task  Force to check the rate of waywardness in school campuses and immediate surroundings.

Understandably, the kids are reputed for their youthfulness, tenderness and even innocence. In spite of this, it is not strange that the activities of some recalcitrant students often smack of viciousness and outright barbarism. Cases have been reported in the past of students vandalising school property, assaulting mates, teachers and/or school officials. Other instances of school violence involving students have even resulted in the loss of life.

Yet, schools are supposed to be examples of piety, excellence, and uprightness. This is not to say that the children are mere receptacles. They must be allowed the benefit of doubt. On the other hand, their creativity and desire to learn are at times misdirected especially when peer groups come in to wrongly influence them. The phenomenon of outside influence has in recent years led to the presence of intruders in schools with the consequence that those who infiltrate the school milieu often proffer brutality and indecency among students and teachers, making the school environment totally unsafe.

While conceding to the students their right to commit errors because that is one of the surest ways for them to learn, since experience, they say, is the best teacher, no one can tolerate mistakes that lead to anarchy, injury or loss of life and property. That is where the role of school authorities like teachers and discipline masters remains primordial in collaborating with law enforcement officials so that even kids spotted for Police offenses must be understood as such without them being obligatorily treated as outcast.

The balance seems so delicate that people trained to ensure military-like discipline should be called to handle those understood to be tender and innocent. Good enough, police operatives are not only parents or guardians themselves, but a civil or public force whose role is to educate as well.

he famous letter said to have been written by former United States President, Abraham Lincoln, to his son's teacher points out that he should; “Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right. Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.” This is to say that while the child needs to respect the laws, it is important to learn from their errors rather than forcing them to stay moribund.

Applying such a carrot and stick formula to discipline in school could actually work better, especially in a context where most of the kids today receive lots of external influence from varied sources like the new information communication technologies. The Internet, for instance, knows no limits and the imagination of pupils and students can at times be so misleading that even harsher methods may not always be excluded in meting out punishment for wrongdoing.

In addition, the police network must have to be extended to the hinterlands because the ugly head of violence in the school milieu is so varied that limiting deterrent measures to the cities might just be a part of the solution. Those who deliberately move into school campuses with devilish intentions do not only operate in the towns.

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