For many of us, receiving the ‘strap’ at school is a distant recollection, or something we’ve never before experienced.

In Ethiopia though, corporal punishment in rural schools is often the norm.

It is a norm we are changing. Our vision for quality education means we want to shift the education standards in Ethiopia from one where students sit and are taught, to one where they actively engage and learn.

A safe, nurturing environment is a key first step to achieving that.

Corporal punishment is not such as distant relic of the school system as many suppose. It is still legal in 19 US states and wasn’t officially outlawed in Canada until 2004.

Ethiopia, in contrast, specifically made corporal punishment in schools illegal as part of their 1995 Constitution.

But Ethiopia is a large country, dominated by rural communities, and there is often a vast gap between the law and traditional practices. In one 2011 study[i], for the Somali region, 63 percent of respondents said corporal punishment by teachers was common. The methods included being beaten with a hand or a stick, or being forcing them to maintain painful positions or look at the sun.

With corporal punishment, as with all our initiatives, our approach is not tell communities what they are doing is wrong, but to engage them in discussions about the best ways to nurture learning.

We discuss how students behave in class, how confident they are to participate and how many choose to join in extra-curricular activities. We talk about the reasons why students might not be as active and they reasons why they drop out.

And we compare the environment they want to see – where students enjoy learning and are eager to take part – and ask how compatible that is with an environment where they have to fear physical punishment.

As a result, a significant number of schools across our communities are choosing to end corporal punishment. In one area, Bale, all 103 of the communities we work with banned the practice. Teachers are telling us that students are more self-confident and interactive in the classroom, and they’re putting them hands up for more activities, be it the 1,130 clubs created in our schools or the 3,235 sports competitions held.

By allowing our communities to reach their own conclusions, we ensure a community-led cultural shift on corporal punishment – one that will continue long after we’re gone. It’s all part of our approach to ensure sustainable, quality education.

[i] End Corporal Punishment – Ethiopia Country Report