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Consigning the cane to history

By Opportunity International

School Leaders Professional Development - June 2016

For as long as anyone can remember, many teachers in Ghana have relied on the cane to control their classroom. These days it has become more frowned upon, however the practice is not yet illegal and remains widespread.

How best to see corporal punishment banished from the country’s schools? Opportunity EduFinance’s work with its Self Improving Schools System (SISS) in Ghana has shown that facilitating peer-to-peer professional development and support is one very effective way, by letting school heads and teachers make the right choices for themselves.

The Ghanaian SISS system has grown rapidly since it was started in February this year with 30 schools, now boasting 106 schools and counting. It seems that this growth is stemming from the real value that school heads and teachers find in being brought together to learn from each other.

In May, Opportunity EduFinance convened teachers from its SISS-clustered schools for Teacher Meetings that included a session on Classroom Management. Our Education Specialist Abby Takyi-Kwakwa reports that during this session one teacher, Mr Nicholas from Superfluous Grace Academy, mentioned that he frequently caned some of his teenaged students because they were talkative and unruly. Other teachers and the Education Specialists responded by suggesting other ways of managing classroom attention and discipline without resorting to the cane.

‘In a recent follow-up feedback session, Mr Nicholas described how on the first day back to school after the Classroom Management meeting, he and his students came up with some new Classroom Rules, something that he hadn’t tried before.’ says Abby.

‘As his students are very talkative, Mr Nicholas and his students chose to use the ‘talking stick’ method. Students who want to share verbally have to request the ‘talking stick’, which they must have in their hand before talking to the class. He now also has two time slots in the school day where he allows the students to get into groups to talk and discuss concepts covered.’

The results have been transformative, she says. ‘Now, after a few weeks of putting all this into practice, he has not used a cane on any student. He also finds that he has a better rapport with his students and they are now putting in more effort with their classwork, as they are more attentive and focused.’

The experience also seems to have revitalised Mr Nicholas. ‘He smiled when he described how just allowing his students to engage verbally with one another in a productive way could turn his unruly class into a much more focused one.’

School heads have been similarly inspired to make changes following May’s discussions among their peers. Abby reports that Rev. Kennedy, Proprietor of the Divine Wisdom Academy and Mr. Deku, Proprietor of Pearl Petra School, have both ‘put their foot down’ on caning in their schools.

Like many of the schools now in the Ghana SISS cluster system, these schools previously used the cane to discipline students. Now, after the proprietors were able to discuss the issue with their peers and then received sample copies of Positive Behavior Management policies that they could modify for use in their schools, teachers are no longer allowed to cane students. Abby says that these policies are now posted in the schools ‘to get the whole school community, including parents, to buy into the new policy’.

These are just two out of countless stories of how Opportunity EduFinance’s SISS approach is allowing teachers and heads to find positive solutions and alternative approaches to bring about better education outcomes in their schools.

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