Siwaphiwe Myataza
At Zimele Senior Secondary School in Ikhwezi township, Mthatha, we all knew and respected the rules of the school.

Not that we had any choice, because our strong and disciplined principal Mrs Hardy never created room for clowns.

You either behaved or you would be commanded to go to get your own stick from the nearest tree - a stick that would harshly visit your tiny hands.

From being late, to not doing homework, attaining 49 out of 50 in a test to bullying, didn’t exist at Hardy’s premises.

Yes, attaining 49 out of 50 marks qualified you for a lashing.

Mr Damane, my Xhosa and maths teacher, would always emphasise that getting less than the total marks was an insult because he explained the work and we nodded to notify him we understood but in a test scored the opposite. For that one would get a hiding.

We never felt abused, unloved or rejected. It hurt, but it was fun because some in my class would roam the entire classroom when it was their turn to get lashes. That made us laugh at each other’s fears with love.

Such instances helped us grow and our learning process improved because we never wanted to disappoint our parents. But, overall, a beating was something we avoided at all times.

For me that was discipline.

In the morning, you would wake up, bath, dress up, eat your breakfast and leave early because you didn’t want, by any chance, Mrs Hardy to close the school gate while you were outside the premises.

If you were unlucky to find yourself outside by the time school started you knew exactly what to expect - pick up papers in the school yard or plough the garden - it was your choice to make. But before you chose, at least two lashes had to visit your tiny hand. That made us disciplined children.

Do you know what a blackboard wiper is? That I respect. When it was raining and you couldn’t go outside to get a stick that was meant to discipline you - blackboard wipers did the job. You just had to put your fingers together and portray a little mountain, then the wiper would beat you on the tips of your fingers close to your nails. That really hurt, but we never felt a need to hold any grudge towards the teacher because there was a spirit that revealed to us that we were being reformed for something great.

We were being disciplined and there was never a time when we wrestled with teachers because they only used sticks to beat us, not fists.

The truth is, we were really being enhanced. Today, Zimele Senior Secondary School has a fat reputation in the Eastern Cape. Just to brag; our own Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo, aka Black Coffee, is a product of Zimele.

What they call corporal punishment enhanced our learning and helped us reveal the best versions of ourselves.

But that was then, times have changed.

Nowadays, pupils have rights more than responsibilities.

Teachers would beat and tell us that at school we were children and they were our parents. It worked for us mainly because we concentrated more on our responsibilities and could therefore balance what was expected from us with the mandate of our school.

I am, however, not against children’s rights, but I am just painting a picture of my schooling path back at Zimele Senior Secondary School in Mthatha.

I fully respect Section 28 in the constitution which is devoted to children and outlines the rights they are entitled to.

The section states that every child has the right not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development.

Section 28 continues to state that a child has the right to family care or parental care and has a right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.

I acknowledge all these rights, but I am a bit uncomfortable because as a child I never felt entitled to them. Maybe I was too childish.

I was a child - my job was to go to school, get good marks, eat, play, shop for Christmas and spend time with my family.

I really never had time to monitor the abuse going on at my school - if by any chance it existed.

Perhaps I was abused, but because of the norms that flooded my school environment, I was blinded. I seriously wouldn't know, but being punished when I did wrong never felt like abuse.

But either way, I am happy that I went through everything I experienced at Zimele Senior Secondary School.

I am a better child because of all the discipline that was instilled in me by the teachers and of course working with my parents.

* Siwaphiwe Myataza, a political science graduate from the University of the Western Cape, works as a content developer at the Media and Writers Firm.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.