Parents and NGOs question if caning should still be permitted in schools after pupil’s eye injury

FocusM recently published a piece on whether modern Malaysians believed in the saying spare the rod, spoil the child.

From the comments on social media, many appear to still trust the persuasive power of the good old rotan, citing how they themselves have turned out as decent, sensible citizens after a childhood marked by corporal punishment.

The thorny issue has again surfaced due to an incident in Penang a couple of days ago. A teacher inadvertently caused an eye injury to a Form Five pupil when attempting to cane him.

The pupil had been caught vaping in class and the caning was meted out by the assistant discipline teacher.

Interestingly, many have spoken out against the practice of caning in schools, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) has highlighted that the school had not complied with government regulations on this issue, citing Section 5 of the Education Rules and Regulation (School Discipline) 1959 circular which stipulated only the principal or authorised personnel by the headmaster could carry out light caning on students while girls are exempted from this practice.

The circular also stipulates that light caning can only be administered to the palms and clothed buttocks.

“In this case, if the school complied with guidelines, it would have been contained and not led to such a situation,” PAGE chairperson Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim pointed out. “Physical punishment is now limited within specific conditions which must be complied with. We have zero tolerance. PAGE does not advocate the use of physical punishment.”

Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim

Corporal punishment

Yes, a mishap did occur due to caning. The pupil’s parents have acknowledged that it was an accident. The question is how are teachers expected to control a classroom of students with a number who are hell bent on deviant and anti-social behaviour?

A teacher’s job is tough enough without so many dissenting voices making it nigh on impossible. While strict adherence to guidelines is a must, there is a lot to be said for empowering beleaguered educators with the power of the rotan.

Just to repeat the student’s offence – he was caught vaping in class! Isn’t that a serious enough offence to warrant serious disciplinary action? What sort of message would it send to his classmates if he was just let off the hook?

Perhaps, his parents and the dissenting NGOs would prefer the young lad be suspended from school, thereby missing important lessons instead of the temporary pain from caning.

Caning is a sensitive issue. But Malaysians need to be aware just how tough a job it is to be a teacher with students seemingly oblivious to rules or authority figures.

Perhaps suspension and expulsion should be mooted for cases such as the above. But for the time being, teachers should not be condemned for trying to inject some discipline into a classroom which is meant to be a learning environment, not a vape-friendly lepak corner. – Sept 22, 2023

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