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 Format: MS WORD   Chapters: 1-5

 Pages: 68   Attributes: COMPREHENSIVE RESEARCH

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 Feb 23, 2020 |  12:14 pm |  1363



Discipline is a major challenge faced by educators and parents in most of the Nigerian schools. Discourse on discipline in education often highlights corporal punishment or measures to infuse moral fibre (du Preez & Roux, 2010), and the concept of discipline is often suffused with references to corporal punishment (Parker- Jenkins, 1999). Colonial-apartheid Nigerian schools were identified with harsh punishment and brutal discipline. In post-apartheid Nigeria corporal punishment is unlawful and unjust; hence it is neither feasible

nor desirable. Section 12 of the Nigerian Constitution Act (108 of 1996) states that “everyone has the right not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way”. In line with the Constitution, the National Education Policy Act of 1996 states that no person shall administer corporal punishment or subject a student to psychological or physical abuse at any educational institution”. Hence the constitutional requirements call for the protection, perpetuation and safeguarding of children’s rights. However, the Nigerian Schools Act (SASA) (1996) is not explicit on the disciplinary strategies educators should adopt to handle learner indiscipline in schools (Maphosa & Shumba, 2010, p. 389).

The failure of government to suggest an immediate alternative form of punishment has led to the continuation of corporal punishment thereby causing conflict between teachers, learners, and parents. Consequently, indiscipline by students in Nigerian schools is on the increase (Aziza, 2001; De Wet, 2007; Masitsa, 2008). Educators lament their loss of authority due to the abolition of corporal punishment since “disciplinary measures are devised to promote and maintain a well-disciplined school environment and simultaneously , prohibit and punish unacceptable conduct through measures that also encourage the culprits to improve their behaviour”(Van de Bank, 2000, pp. 310-315).Literature on discipline frequently highlights the strong connection between upholding discipline in classrooms and instilling certain values (Bickmore, 2003; du Preez & Roux, 2010; Masitsa, 2008; Parker-Jenkins, 1999; Vally, 2005; Wolhuter & Steyn, 2003).But what does it mean to discipline a person? Is discipline different or similar to punishment? This paper is a conceptual discourse on the nature of punishment of learners in Nigerian schools.

Discipline- Punishment relationship

There are several dictionary meanings of discipline which appear to provide us with the popular definition of the notion. For instance, Collins Concise Dictionary(1999) suggests some related meanings such as order, teaching, severity, obedience, compel, restrain, restraint, punish while the Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary(1995, p.329) defines discipline as “…training or control , often using a system of punishment or chastisement, aimed at producing obedience to rules or the improvement of physical powers and self-control; the controlled , ordered behaviour resulting from training ; the state of improved behaviour resulting from such training”. Furthermore, The American Heritage Dictionary confers the following four definitions upon the concept of discipline as the most universal of the different meanings:

The development of mental faculties (i.e., mental discipline) by instruction and exercise;

(2) Training to act in accordance with established rules;

(3) Indoctrination to rule; and

(4) Training through suffering”. It is clear from these definitions that various meanings can be associated with the concept of ‘discipline’.

Discipline appears to be used in at least three senses; all matching the alternate dictionary definitions as shown above, but which are not sufficiently distinguished in everyday use. One view that discipline as an orderly or prescribed conduct, refers to the individual’s ability to aim all of one's vigour, attention and capacity toward achieving ones' personal desired goals. Despite the source of the discipline being outside the self, it is still seen as focusing toward the achievement of goals and relates to associated regulative authority; for example the teacher, the chief or the judge. This view defines self-discipline. Discipline, in the second sense and in the context of education, is designed to maintain a form of order that will promote learning objectives and, providing a teacher with a classroom atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning. It is extrinsic in the sense that it involves “…complying with rule instrumental to goal…or rule is instrumental to order which helps achieve the goal”(Rich, 1982, p. 53). It involves the maintenance of order in a group, keeping the members of a group focused on a goal, preserving individuals from disturbing or harming each other ;and is believed to be possible largely through the threat of punishment. Punishment itself is the third sense of discipline. When adults administer punishment they are said to be "disciplining" the child. While in the first predication submission to rules is an instrument for achieving the desired goal and the second is respecting the rule in order to promote order necessary for attaining the desired goal. The third perspective views discipline as treatment that corrects or punishes, that is “…the means of rectifying errors and meting out appropriate punishment for wrongdoers”(Rich, 1982, p. 53). Punishment , in this sense, serves to force an individual to resist or remove certain unwanted cognitive or affective behaviours in order to become ‘disciplined’(Van Wyk, 2000, p. 1).

The teacher is assigned to a classroom with a legitimate power and authority, vested in him/her by the society through legislation and through customs (Maphumulo & Vakalisa, 2000). Such power and authority do not proceed unperturbed by the learners who consciously or unconsciously are involved in offering counter-strategies designed to serve their own interests in the classroom. They use ploys to limit the nature and extent of teacher domination which is feasible in class. The teacher’s main concern is to regulate behaviour by exercising his authority, and if authority breaks down and they lose control and cooperation of the learners, “… they may resort to the use of appropriate force, i.e. punishment, in order to maintain standards of behaviour that are necessary so that education can take place”(Cleif, 1976, p. 131). Punishment in schools then comes in as an authoritarian approach to managing the classroom since learners need to be controlled by the educators. The purpose of punishment is to discourage misbehavior that defies the preventive measures taken by the teacher to create an environment that makes maximum learning possible. Maphumulo & Vakalisa (2000) further state that a necessary punishment must be meted or released out fairly and in proportion to the transgression for which it is given, and therefore, it must not be seen by a learner as a display of power by the teacher. Rather, it must be correctional and not confrontational. Hence, it must serve the interests of the learner rather than of the teacher.

This implies that the learner must also know and understand the reasons for being punished even although he/she does not appreciate or accept punishment administered to him/her. The purpose of education, in this sense, is to make the learner understand that in real life human beings pay a price (are punished) for the bad choices they make. Hence, the failure to punish when it is due would make the teacher guilty of neglecting his/her duty. If the teacher and the learners have agreed on the consequence of breaking the negotiated and agreed rules of the class at the beginning of the year, those learners are responsible for their wrong doings and it is therefore necessary for the teacher to administer punishment on the offending learners. In addition, Ruffin (2009)reaffirms that punishment in schools is imposed on learners who have done wrong or as a consequence of violating school rules. In most cases learners are punished for not completing their homework/class work, vandalism (damaging school property), late coming, cursing, bad language, bullying, stealing from others and also not paying attention in the class especially while learning and teaching is in progress(Maree & Cherian, 2004). To add, Vally asserts that punishment puts more emphasis on what a child must not do, and it also insists on obedience and condemns misbehaviour in a child as well, to discourage the wrong doers from repeating the offending behaviour (Vally, 2005). Punishment cannot be discussed in limited terms or in the school context only, since we can still talk about parents or elders punishing their own children at home for similar transgressions to those of the school. These include violation of moral rules such as lying to their elders or disrespecting their elders in anyway. As a result, most parents tend to punish their children corporally in the name of discipline and social order. But despite the abolishment of corporal punishment in Nigerian schools, not all teachers abided by this ban, and corporal punishment is still in practice in many schools.

It is evident from foregoing expositions that the Nigerian government strives for a school environment that respects human right and fundamental freedoms. Discipline must be maintained in school so that the culture of teaching and learning should run smoothly without any disruptive behaviour. The far reaching outcome of this clause on a national platform is the achievement of the critical and developmental outcomes of educating learners into being able to demonstrate an understanding of interrelationships, working with others as team members and for being responsible citizens of Nigeria.

Until recently, science could tell us a little about the causes of inappropriate behaviours and more or less ways to address them successfully. One of which is by using Choice Theory which involves bringing learners to an awareness of their responsibility to make their own decision about their behaviour. This style of discipline management strategy (Choice Theory) focuses not only on stopping an unwanted behaviour, but of modifying it without using punishments following specific rules or rewards of any sort. Classroom management, a term used by teachers to describe the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite disruptive behaviour by students,

As such, discipline which ensures the safety of educators and learners and create an environment conducive to teaching and learning is of great importance in schools today and requires attention.


1.2    Background of the study

The responsibilities to create and maintain a safe, disciplined environment in Nigerian schools are the responsibility of principals, educators, and management committees. With no explicit guidelines available to these parties on how to promote appropriate behaviour and develop self-discipline, and how to respond to inappropriate behaviour in order to correct and modify it (Joubert et al., 2004), educators today face many challenges. Not only must they present curriculum content in a meaningful way, but they are also expected to be drug, family and guidance counsellors, health care workers, as well as technology users and monitors. At the same time they must check for weapons, maintain a safe and positive classroom climate, and deal with disruptive behaviours (Sousa, 2009:1). Dealing with challenging learner behaviour is demanding a greater portion of teacher time as the number of students with consistent behavioural problems appears to be growing.

However, the number of disciplinary actions taken by schools in response to less serious behavioural offenses has increased over time. In maintaining discipline in schools that will serve a long term, educators have to device and implement disciplinary strategies that are non coercive, yet assertive and non-confrontational and which will strive to increase classroom time available for teaching and learning and at the same time respond to students behaviours in a manner that decrease disruption, improve classroom atmosphere and relieves educator stress and fatigue. In achieving this effectively such that discipline is managed alongside modifying students’ behaviours, there is a dire need to understand learners’ behaviour and reasons behind varying learner acts of misconduct. It is the conceded opinion of this study for educators to understand and apply Choice Theory in understanding learners’ behaviours and actions so as to be able to design effective disciplinary strategies that will manage and modify students’ behaviours in schools effectively.

As an educator in a school in East London, the second -largest city in the Eastern Cape, the researcher has noted the high rate of violence-related incidents in schools during the past number of years. This was confirmed by various media reports, which have highlighted a number of incidents of physical violence, bullying and victimization in schools in the Eastern Cape. In a country-wide investigation by the national education ministry, it was found that secondary schools in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces suffered the most because of crime and violence (Jonker-Bryce, 2001:1). One of the goals of discipline which can be also seen as a challenge for many schools, not only in the Eastern Cape, is to provide a safe environment for all learners and educators. The South Afri can Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) published statistics from the 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), a study by the U.S.-based Institute for Education Sciences (IES) in 30 countries worldwide. This study revealed that Nigeria was ranked last in school safety.

Further reported that in some of the researched schools, the educators complained that they often found themselves in classroom situations where they could not handle certain behavioural problems.

1.3    Statement of the problem

Punishment as a disciplinary tool is outlawed. The outlawing of corporal punishment seems to have some negative consequences on school discipline. This instigate that discipline must be maintained in school so that the culture of teaching and learning should run smoothly without any disruptive behaviour must also be achieved.

In the abolition of what seems to be working for educators in the past to maintain discipline, and at the same time enforcing the responsibility to maintain discipline without an equivalent alternative is challenging and frustrating. That is why to improve the situation, sometimes, educators risk setting very rigid classroom rules instead of considering individual situation. Masitsa (2007:3) puts it that:

From the time learners realised that corporal punishment was abolished, their misbehavior increased, and lately they appear to be out of control. Many schools especially in Mahikeng area (Nigeria), learner’s misbehaviour is so serious that numerous educators consider that the use of corporal punishment should be permitted in schools once more, since its abolition has left them with no effective methods of enforcing punishment. Supporting this contention, (Osthuizen, 2007:1) also indicates that the abolition of corporal punishment left a

definite vacuum in methods of dealing with learner misconduct. This is an indication over reliance on the use of punishment by specific rules.

Further emphasising the frustration and challenges for schools administrators and teachers to manage discipline in schools without corporal punishment, Van Tassel (2011:1) indicates that teachers do not know alternative discipline methods which allow for increased student autonomy. They also do not know what alternative methods of discipline have to offer to them as educators. Managing learner behaviour has become one of the most problematic and contested areas in schools since the banning of corporal punishment (Tiwane, 2010:1). Educators are discouraged and demoralized by the way learners behave as they are accountable for learners’ academic performance and achievement. Children are taught that coercion has no place in the civilized world. To be consistent, coercion should have no place in education. Students cannot be coerced to learn, nor can they be forced to behave in a certain manner. The choice of how to behave is just what Glasser (2009: 3) refers to as making better choices.

In Nigerian secondary schools, the most common problem reported by teachers is those that relate to behavior management in the classroom (Igbo, 2005). The evidence is irrefutable, surveys of graduates education schools and colleges indicate that sometimes in an attempt to maintain order in the classroom sometimes teachers can actually make the problem worse which leads to known implications such as; lackadaisical attitude towards learning, loss of interest in the subject and in general a poor academic performance of such a child. Considering this observation, one wonders the extent these teachers are aware of and apply research supported classroom behavior management skills. Over the years there has a record of poor performance of students in physics examination which are written every year in the country. It has also been observed that students no longer have interest in learning physics. Since classroom management is a keystone for students learning and has been cited by virtually every researcher and reviewer who looked at the relationship between educational practices and student results (Angell, 1991; Harwood, 1992 et al) If the school authorities and physics teachers emphasize more on how to implement classroom management skills perhaps these problems stated above could be minimized. However, there is a need to determine the strategies teachers perceive to be effective in handling disruptive behavior in secondary schools, therefore this research work will look into better ways of implementing effective management strategies which aid in the improvement of students in physics and also how the interest of students in the subject could be regained.

Violence is clearly prevalent in many Nigerian schools. Learners cannot learn, and teachers cannot teach effectively in an unsafe environment, and therefore order and discipline are necessary in schools. A lack of discipline in a school creates an environment that can become violent and unsafe. Learners and educators have a legal right to learn and teach in a safe environment. It seems that this right is violated in many schools, and many learners feel unsafe at school. Failing to provide a safe environment can lead to violent situations and serious discipline problems. Therefore, different discipline strategies in class management need to be explored to provide educators with the necessary skills to manage discipline problems at school. Discipline problems need to be addressed at an early stage to prevent violence from escalating.


The study was mainly concerned with alternative methods of student behaviour management using a sample drawn from public secondary school teachers in Ijebu Ode. The study assumed that teachers have knowledge of alternative measures of instilling student discipline.


This research aims to examine the role of discipline in creating a safe environment and combating violence in schools, It seeks to provide guidelines and recommendations pertaining to the effective involvement of educators, learners and other stakeholders in successfully maintaining discipline in order to establish a safe learning environment.

·         To establish the extent to which the application of school rules, codes of conduct and disciplinary strategies comply with the right to learn in a safe and secure environment.

·         To determine whether the school rules and codes of conduct of the selected schools make adequate provision for the protection of the victim and the punishment of the perpetrator.


The main purpose of this study is to determine the report of class control, discipline reward, and punishment necessary to create conducive environment for learning

In the light and nature of the above mentioned problem statement, the main purpose of this paper is to report on the research project that was conducted to explore how choice Theory can be used in solving disciplinary problems and in managing and modifying challenging learner behaviours in Nigerian schools.


It seems from the press, personal observation and scholarship, that violence is increasing in schools across Nigeria. Thompson, who conducted comprehensive research into discipline in primary and secondary education in Nigeria (2002:7), confirms that there has been a breakdown in discipline in schools, and suggests that this should be rectified as soon as possible. This research is therefore relevant to parents, educators and all stakeholders who regularly have to deal with violence related crises. It is not about judging educators for the lack of discipline in their schools, but rather to contribute to an understanding of the importance of the role of discipline, and awareness of the legal aspects concerning the maintenance of discipline and violence in schools. Hopefully educators will critically analyse the systems and disciplinary procedures at their own schools in order to improve discipline, and shape learning environments in which violence is less likely to take root.

To educators, this paper provides an alternative strategy for managing classroom discipline which is less time consuming thus providing more time for teaching and learning instead of time wasting in enforcing punishment and resources wasted in using rewards to maintain discipline. Knowledge of the use of Choice Theory which is non-coercive, yet assertive and non confrontational to manage discipline relieves educators of stress, fatigue and burnout normally caused by using the unsuccessful strategy of punishments to maintain discipline in schools.

To learners, this paper exposes learners to a strategy which does not only just strive to stop their misbehaviors, but also teaches them how to behave responsibly as future citizens of Nigeria. Accountability and responsibility for ones behaviours is a dire need for future citizens of Nigeria and the world. This becomes a part in the everyday life of learners.


Ø  What are the relevant law cases and disciplinary policies and procedures in secondary school?

Ø  What are the shortcomings in the discipline of some schools, does this constitute a neglect of the right of learners to study in a safe environment?

Ø  What are learners’ perceptions of how violent behaviour in schools affects their ability to learn?

Ø  What disciplinary approaches are employed in the secondary schools, and how successful are they seen as being in reducing or eliminating violence and restoring discipline in those schools?

Ø  What support is provided to schools by the relevant authorities to combat school violence and to address its psychological consequences?

Ø  What are educators’ and learners’ perceptions of what needs to be done to ensure the safety of learners and restore discipline in schools?


There is growing concern among educators, parents and other stakeholders about the high rate of indiscipline in public secondary schools. Outlawing of corporal punishment in schools, especially the practice of canning, which was already a socio culturally accepted norm, provided a turning point in the management of student discipline.

Reports however still indicate significant prevalence of the practice among many schools countrywide. Research studies have been undertaken on corporal punishment and its physical and psychological effects on the child.


This study concentrates on only secondary schools in Ijebu Ode.. The choice of participants, and the use of purposive sampling of grades, will be discussed in more detail in the research methodology. The findings cannot be generalised to the whole of the Ogun state. However, the findings may be an indication that there is a serious problem existing in managing discipline in schools.

1.11  Limitations

The study had the following limitations:

Because of time constrains, just three qualitatively orientated types of data collection instruments were used, and not extensively as demanded, but accurately, i.e. interviews (focus group interviews and individual in-depth interviews), observation, and document analysis.

Due to financial constrains, the study was restricted to only schools in Ijebu Ode. The researchers lack finances to move to many schools within the local government and conduct investigative observation.

 Language a difficulty was also another setback in communication to this study as most of the holders of information (participants) wanted to use Tswana to respond to questions during interview, whereas the researchers were only fluent in English.

Due to the capricious nature of the participants, they might decide to answer the questions partially or fake their information.


1.      LEGITIMATE:  Something that is lawful

2.        VIOLENCE: A great roughness and force, often causing severe physical injury or damage

3.      DISCIPLINE: Training in an orderly way of life

4.      MANAGEMENT: The art of managing a particular office/institution

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