Violence against students in the name of school discipline has led in many instances to hardship, and in extreme situations, the death of students in the Ghanaian secondary system (see myjoyonline.com, 2015). As a former secondary school teacher and now teacher educator, this presents an obvious motivation for examining the concept and actuality of school discipline in Ghana with the intention of finding potential for a change of approach in policy, teacher professionalism and practice. Behaviour management presents an established scope for educational research globally and has been researched for some years (Powel and Tod, 2004). The term Positive Behaviour Management (PBM) is used to denote forms of behaviour management in school that seeks to ensure that the dignity and self-esteem of students are safeguarded (e.g. Raths 1964; Wolfe 1991; Black and William 1998; Grundy & Blandford 2006; Brookfield 2006; Hayes et al. 2011).
A qualitative case-study of four state Senior High Schools in Ghana was conducted using semi-structured interviews, observation and documents analysis. A sample of 28 respondents; 20 members of staff (headteachers or their assistants, senior house masters/mistress and subject teachers) and eight students, voluntarily participated in this research. Drawing on Foucault’s concepts of Normalisation, Surveillance and Regulation as tools of analysis and Ball’s (1987) theory on school micro-politics, an analysis of the data and policy documents was done.
Findings suggest that physical and emotional abuses are widespread, propelled by teacher perceptions and school policy prescriptions that punishment must be painful, reformative and deterrent. In addition, they reveal negative consequences of physical and emotional abuses, rampant student suspensions from school and an obsolete policy on school discipline. The research therefore suggests an alternative approach to behaviour management which should be contained in policy reforms, changes in teacher training, general policy reforms, and professional practice.