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Op-ed: The difference between punishment and abuse

The GES has banned all forms of corporal punishment in schools, however, the confusion created by the thin line between punishment and abuse from school-related punishment lingers on.

Punished in school 

Punishment, as we know, has been implemented since time immemorial. From the first man who walked the face of this earth to our current generation, punishment has been met out to each and every defaulter according to his faults. It may have been meted out justly or unjustly, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Punishment is what on suffers for doing wrong, there are forms of punishment such as corporal punishment, capital punishment and so on. Punishment is implemented everywhere such as homes, churches, schools and the community as a whole.


 Abuse as an extreme form of punishment

Abuse is the extreme of punishment – when you punish someone until harm is done to the person. Abuse takes various forms such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and sexual abuse.

In the above-mentioned types, physical and verbal abuse is the ones that are most likely suffered by children in schools.

Physical abuse is beating a child until harm (marks or cut) is inflicted on the child.

 Verbal abuse is when one person uses foul words on another person so much so that the person loses his or her self-confidence.

The above-mentioned abuses occur everywhere but I want to place emphasis on our schools.

There is a thin line between punishment and abuse, I believe if teachers need to raise responsible citizens for our nation they must not do away with punishment but they should also be careful so as not to abuse the children in the name punishment.


Working with children is very difficult so we don’t really understand the teachers when certain actions are taken against our children.

I totally frown on abuse, and so does all teachers. Dear teachers even though you have every right to punish a child for misbehaving please ensure you don’t abuse.


 Effects of abuse on school children 

Abuse tends to have long term effects on the children, abused children are often traumatised. They tend to coil into their shells and are not able to reach their full potential.

These children also fail to explore which leads to discovery, these styles of learning are very important in the early stages of the life of the child. It also leads to poor academic performance.

In the past week, the director of guidance and counselling unit of the Ghana Education Service (GES) made a comment that “parents should take on teachers who abuse their wards”.

This comment caught the interest of many, most especially teachers who made some wild comments over social media and on some blogs.

She wasn’t wrong to mention abuse, because it’s happening but to tell parents to take on teachers is to the extreme, am say so because taking on someone means a lot of things especially depending on where you are coming from.

For those in Cantonment it may mean that they will sue the teacher in the court and to someone in and around slums of Accra, it means gathering people and beating up the teacher.

Madam Director I believe you have the interest of the children at heart but handing over your staff to these parents who are already on their throat for one thing or the other is not ideal.

I believe every worker must feel secure at his/her workplace otherwise the person will not work with the required enthusiasm to produce the required results.


 Effects of these comments on the nation

The misunderstanding we see today if not resolved now will haunt us some time to come, it will have dire repercussions on us as a nation in the future.

In the sense that teachers who go ahead to punish will be attacked in various ways and those who won’t bother will end up creating educated yet irresponsible citizens, ones who can’t be held accountable for what they do.

These children are our future so decision taken concerning them should be revised and reconsidered.

My advice to the reader

Act less on what you hear, especially on headlines. Read the entire content and before you act be empathetic, put yourself in the speaker’s shoes, find out why he /she is saying what he/ she is saying.

Source: Joshua Botchway via Ghana

February 4, 2019

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