I wrote the below poem for the school’s zonal highly competitive Music Dance and Drama (MDD) Festival – perhaps it is as highly contested as the Olympic Games but at a school level. The poem is one of eight categories, with traditional dance certainly being the highlight! Most school’s buy their poem and then the children learn it, usually reciting in chorus fashion. I went along – amazing experience! We were sure we were going to get first or second overall but ended up fourth, teachers’ response: money changed hands overnight. The theme was non-violence, malaria free schools and effective learning – all items had to ecapsulate that theme. Ironically, during poem practise children were threatened to be beaten if they didn’t perform well – even more ironic when you read the words…

The Innocent Child

By Jody Unterrheiner






on the


and out

Violence in schools is like a dart,

That cuts right through to the heart










When will teachers come to their senses

That corporal punishment builds many fences:

A fence keeping out confidence

A fence keeping in shyness

A fence keeping out happiness

A fence keeping in sadness

A fence keeping out friends

A fence keeping in loneliness

A fence keeping out effective learning.

Corporal punishment can be physical:







or non-physical

Words which may:





or scare us

Let’s knock down the fence

And show some common sense

For this corporal punishment comes with one main excuse

But this does not mean we accept this form of abuse

Teachers, parents you may

often hear them say:

African children hear best when they are beaten.

Beaten? The only thing you may do to us is weaken:

Weaken our performance

Weaken our attitude

Weaken our independence

Weaken our creativity

Weaken our learning environment

Weaken us

Their ears are on their buttocks

Teachers, the door to improvement knocks.

Step through the door and transform our school,

It is not I who can change, you hold the tool.

Some tools, however, we have been given.

And we are no longer held captive in a prison.

One tool you have given us, which we are truly thankful,

Is advice on our health and how to be careful.

We know about malaria and the danger it brings.

And how at night we can avoid mosquito stings.

We are taught to recognise what could be a symptom

And offered treatment so we are no longer a victim.

We learn for protection to sleep under a net

But with our little savings, we cannot afford yet

We dream one day for a malaria free land

But that at the moment is out of our hand

Teachers, however, have much in their control

Education and learning environment. Now what is your role?

Give us positive discipline

Give us a voice

Give us independence

Give us life skills

Give us a chance

Let us work together for our future to be better

Transform and improve our lives, and we will be your debtor

Show us what effective learning really means.

And discipline that is positive, not demeans

Help us to be:

problem solvers








the leaders of the future

Let’s knock down the fences

And build up other defences

We don’t listen here (point to buttocks)

This (point to ear) is our ear

One response »

  1. Hazel Mackie says:

    What a powerful and moving poem xxxxxxxxxxxxx Hoe you are both well xxx

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