Some time ago we had dinner with a remarkable man from Kenya. He is the headmaster of a five year old school that has graduated their first class and that class was ranked in the top 20 schools of Kenya. It is a remarkable achievement because his school is only five years old, but even more so as it was done without the use of corporal punishment.
Emmanuel is a man of peace, and his new school reflects those values. Fellow Americans Skip and Lynn (who lived in the other half of the faculty bungalow) have invited him to Ghana to speak to the village schools, where caning, as in much of Ghana, is a standard disciplinary action.
Emmanuel is here to speak to the change he has begun in Kenya and says:
Children model the behavior they are treated with…When children are treated with thoughtful respect and dignity, even when their behavior is not positive, they will try harder to respond with proper behavior. Fear is not a tool of good teacher. Pain is not a tool of a good teacher. …
It is the policy of Siruya Aulo (his school) that any staff member, volunteer, or any adult associated with the school in any way may be dismissed from his or her position at the school immediately, if it is learned that he or she has touched a student in any manner other than a gentle and appropriate way.
I love the language he uses, has touched a student in any manner other than a gentle and appropriate way. So positive and yet comprehensive. Though Suzanne and I have not witnessed it personally, we see caning’s affect on the students at Ashesi. They were caned, as were most listening today.
The teachers listen politely to Emmanuel, but are skeptical, I can see it in their faces; hear in their questions.
“How can I maintain order without fear?” The possibility of change more frightening than the good it could bring to their classrooms.
Emmanuel speaks of trust, the teachers builds trust with the students, and the students in turn trust the teacher:in this classroom, pain will not be forced upon you.
He speaks with such calm certainty and conviction, and yet the teachers remain unconvinced.
You can keep the change, they seem to be thinking, but Emmanuel is not discouraged. He has heard it before, and asks the teachers of their concerns. Instead of caning, they tell him about a lack of student motivation.
Berekuso has a new high school. It is private, and for this village, the school fees are too dear, between $500 to $1000 per year depending on if the student boards or just attends day school.
Because the school fees are out of reach for most villagers, teachers and parents of the local junior high schools students have trouble motivating them to study or even try to pass the high school entrance exam. What is the point if the school fees are too dear?
Emmanuel listens to the parents and teachers, and out of his own finances, offers a scholarship to the best student. The teachers cheer, and I see he has begun to model for them, what he hopes will be modeled for their students: Trust.
Emmanuel is indeed a Man of Peace, and lives well into the meaning of his name, which means God with us.