AT my first year in high school at Mpopoma High (Bulawayo) in 2000, woodwork was an undesirable mandatory practical subject for boys.
We were supposedly older, therefore we received beatings which were levels higher than in primary.
They would smack the students backsides with a plank! They still do. Our teacher would call out “come get your two” and you would get two good whacks of the plank.
This was all part of instilling discipline for a number of things from badly cutting a wood piece, applying too much glue, and leaving wood shavings all over.
I never saw myself fixing the weak joints of our old sofa at home or working at Nyore Nyore Furniture’s hence the learning of woodwork was a serious waste of time, my time really.
The beatings got so out of hand, that one day the boys came to class with padded butts.
All you had to do was find two neat sponges, one for each butt bump.
They helped mentally, but the sponges did very little to cushion the blow. We all survived by them for more than a year. Till in 2001 after a nasty hit, I quit woodwork.
Mpopoma High is one of the most disciplined schools in the country and dropping subjects is almost illegal.
My father has never laid a hand on me my entire life and there was no way I was going to tolerate violence from a stranger – a stranger that happened to be paid school fees and a taxpayer’s salary to have my best interests at heart while in their care. I wasn’t having it.
The boys continued with the sponges barely doing their job and the most natural thing was to double the size of the sponges. I heard, that a teacher was hitting one of the boys, and became suspicious, the boy had an unusually large and lumpy rear.
I’m guessing he demanded to know what it was and a piece of sponge fell out.
That day when the boys were stuffing their behinds, many had cried that it was being overdone. The boys’ mistakes in the workshop were increasing that year and three to six whacks were being given instead of the regular two.
The teacher apparently called the entire woodwork teachers department so that they could witness the curious case of the big butts most of the boys turned out to be having that day. They laughed.
The boys got whacked. As it were, boys in other classes were doing the exact same thing and they too got caught. For me hearing the stories, it was completely hilarious.
Another height of school beatings came in my fourth form when my biology teacher went palm to face on about three quarters of the students’ cheeks for not having done sex and reproduction drawings he had given us as homework days before. He was a big guy and had a big hand!
As he went checking one by one, slap by slap – you should have seen the frantic efforts we made for some of us who were sitting by the back row, we desperately attempted to draw and complete the homework. He menacingly leered and told us to stop wasting our time, he was coming for us and come he did.
The girls cried and the boys were stone cold with shock. In a class of 40 to about 45 only 10 students had done the drawings.
If there is a term “lie in state” for dead people, he taught a class sitting in state that hour.
30 minutes after his class, he come to apologise and promise to never lay a finger on any child again. He never did.
His apology helped because I’m certain that several kids – who were still in shock and some still crying wanted to bring their parents the next day.
A similar incident had happened before. When a sports teacher had randomly whipped the back of a girl, chasing her round the field as if she was a slave girl fleeing from her master! She had her parents at the office the next day.
The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe has in 2015 decided to stop being a bunch of rowdy adults and written a letter to the president calling for scraping of corporal punishment in schools because it’s an issue that has nothing to do with their salaries.
Teachers have been taking out their stress on students for decades and are now worried that their necks will grow thin.
I can’t take you seriously if you believe in child beating. In the 1800s, that vile white man said “the savage only respects force and power”. Was he right? Was he?
If caning is meant to be funny, it’s not. If it’s meant to be constructive, it’s not. Don’t be the parent left wondering why your child committed suicide when you have no idea what is happening in schools. Stop it.
Sonny Jermain writes in his private capacity. This piece is an excerpt from his book “I deserve to be: Selfworth is a silent killer”, due end of year.