Fifth-grade teacher Darius Naki Sogho has been a teacher for 24 years, and for most of those years, he taught with an iron fist—and a rattan rod.
“I used to hit my students when I thought they were being bad, or when they weren’t paying attention,” he says.
Over the last year, however, Mr. Naki Sogho has been learning to contain his anger in class and to teach in a way that neither hurts nor intimidates his students.
He did this by applying the Positive Discipline approach, a method that he and a select group of teachers in the Indonesia province of Papua have been trained to adopt as part of a joint programme managed by UNICEF and the local government that aims to put an end to corporal punishment and other forms of violent behaviour in the classroom.
According to a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in selected districts in Papua and West Papua provinces from 2011, emotional and physical punishment of children is very common. Over 60 per cent of mothers or primary care-takers reported using ‘physical punishment’ against their children. Around one in four even admitted to use severe physical punishment.
Another study in three districts showed that corporal punishment was the most common form of discipline in 56 per cent of the schools interviewed. While some teachers acknowledged that it is damaging, many do not know any alternative ways to discipline their classes.
Margaret Sheehan, the Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Jayapura says global research has shown that violence has negative effects on children, causing them to fail in their studies, drop out of school, adopt violent attitudes, or even suffer mental and physical health problems.
“We need to break the myth that violent punishment can have positive effects on children,” Sheehan says. “Corporal punishment does not build strong and clever students rather it denies children their right to learn free from violence.”
The Positive Discipline programme was initiated in late 2012. Since then, teachers at 16 primary and junior high schools in the districts of Jayapura, Jayawijaya and Keerom participated in different training sessions. The latest training coincided with the launch of the global UNICEF campaign #ENDviolence against Children in Indonesia in the week of 19 November. It involved 28 teachers who from various districts to Papua’s provincial capital Jayapura in the far east of Indonesia.
The teachers learn how to foster positive behaviour rather than using corporal punishment and other forms of violence to discipline students.
The programme aims to help children take on responsibility for managing their own behaviour. Rather than forcing the students to behave, teachers reward positive behaviour with attention. They work with the class to construct positive rules and expectations, and also create sanctions, thus doing away with punishments that inflict suffering, humiliation or fear.
“The training is a combination of using a strong evidence-based system that works to help teachers learn new skills; and a highly participatory approach that allows them to practice what they have learned through role plays and joint discussions on problem solving about how to change the school and their own teaching practices,” explains Helen Cahil, Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne.
UNICEF has been collaborating with Cahil, a former teacher herself, and her colleague Sally Beadle to develop the teacher training modules for the Positive Discipline approach. Adolfina Krisifu and Nancy Wompere from the Faculty of Education of the Cendrawasih University in Jayapura, supported the roll out of the training programme.
The module is tailored to different age groups, combining grades 1 to 3, 4 and 5 as well as 7 and 8.
The teachers are given a simple six-step tool to follow, starting from measures to prevent low-level misbehaviour up to response strategies for high-level misbehaviour.
To make the school a violence-free environment, teachers are banned from using any physical and verbal violence to discipline their students and are encouraged to follow the Positive Discipline approach. Students have become more disciplined and confident and are not afraid of their teachers anymore.
“Students used to be afraid of me,” recalls Mr. Naki Sogho. “When I talked, they would be very tense. Now they seem to enjoy my class, because I try to motivate them, and I conduct the classes in a more relaxed manner, using jokes to break the ice.”