Reviews & Profiles
Corporal, humiliating punishment in our schools
Posted Thursday, January 9 2014 at 02:00
Corporal punishment has been declared illegal in Uganda but reports of numerous incidents of caning of children by educators in schools make us question whether this policy is being monitored or regulated.
If you are to ask any child who has previously been caned what they felt while being beaten, they are most likely to tell you pain.
If you went further to ask this child what they did after being caned, the most likely answer would be cry.
It is for some of these reasons that the Ministry of Education was compelled to issue a policy document abolishing corporal punishment in schools. The practice was later banned in all schools and colleges in 2006.
There are some schools, however, that have not adhered to this policy and are still subjecting their pupils and students to this form of punishment.
In recent times, different media outlets have been awash with stories of youngsters nursing both psychological and physical wounds as a result of this vicious form of punishment.
The African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) has often registered cases of pupils who have been subjected to corporal punishment by their teachers.
One such story was of Yowaana Yakubu, a 13 year old pupil from Nagombwa Primary School in Iganga District. Last year in June, Yakubu was beaten to death by a fellow pupil under instructions of a teacher. The other involved a teacher who caned and wrestled down a 12 year old pupil who in the process lost his tooth.
Another case that ANPPCAN received was of a 10-year-old Primary Six pupil at one of the boarding schools in Mukono District, who was brutally caned by two teachers simultaneously.
The effect of the beating was so severe that the girl had to be hospitalised for two weeks at Nsambya Hospital.
She developed temporarily disability in one of her legs and lost one school term as well.
Last October, this newspaper reported the case of Sobra Namugga, a Primary Four pupil from Nabuyonga Primary School. Namugga lost an eye after a piece of stick fell in her eye while her teacher was hitting the desk.
It is alleged that Namugga and her classmates were making noise and therefore the teacher hit the desk several times as a way of silencing them.
He later defended himself by stating that it was an accident.
In order to understand the gist of what corporal punishment is the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the child regards them as punishments in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of discomfort or pain to the child. Examples include beating (caning), slapping, kicking, throwing, shaking, scalding and burning.
The committee also recognises non-physical corporal punishment, which belittles, humiliates, threatens or scares a child.
On why there are still increasing cases of schools subjecting their pupils and students to corporal punishments, Anselm Wandega, the executive director of ANPPCAN, reasons that it is because communities still hold the punishments in high esteem.
“The practice is still common in schools because most people think that it is the best way of disciplining children,” Wandega explains.
He adds that unfortunately the punishment never corrects the behaviour of the child.
“Most children who are beaten just follow rules but never get to question the rationale behind them,” he adds.
Barbara Maureen Kalumba, a child counsellor at Mildmay International, says that children who receive corporal punishments tend to adopt mal-adaptive behaviours.
“These are behaviours that children pick in order to help them cope in a particular situation,” Kalumba states.
To elaborate more on this, Kalumba points out that, for instance, after a child has been beaten, they would want to show some sort of revenge on the teacher. A child can, for example, dodge this teacher’s class by faking sickness or even hide their property such as a phone or money.
A child may also develop psychological trauma or their self-esteem may be ruined because of giving them harsh punishments. In worse cases, a child may sustain bruises, cuts and wounds.
In some schools such as Buganda Road Primary School where corporal punishment has been abolished, Arnold Ntungwa, the deputy head teacher, states that they provide guidance and counselling to their pupils whenever they do wrong.
In cases where the child cannot be handled by the school authorities, Ntungwa says they either involve the parents or guardians.
Mrs Hajjati Aminah Mukasa, the headmistress of Kololo High School, shares Ntungwa’s view but also emphasises that rules and regulations as well as the code of conduct help in shaping a child’s positive behaviour in school.
“These rules have a huge influence on how a child should behave in school since they guide them on what to and not to do,” Mukasa states.
She believes that there are also simple punishments (not corporal ones) that schools can consider while correcting children.
At her school, for instance, Mukasa explains that indisciplined students are made to wear a different uniform, sweep classrooms or even kneel down.
In worse indiscipline scenarios such as theft, the school involves the police. Mukasa says many times, these alternative punishments have helped curb down the number of indiscipline cases at the school.
Since banning of corporal punishment has not yet been effected as a law, Wandega’s wish is for the policy to be passed by Parliament.
Wandega believes the cases of corporal punishments will reduce if police gets more involved in pinning the culprits.
In case a teacher wants to beat a child, Wandega advises that he or she refuses since it is their right.
In case the child has already been beaten, Wandega advices that he or she talks to a trusted adult who will devise means of helping them.
statistics of physically abused children
The 2011 ANPPCAN report showed that at least 81 per cent of primary school going children suffer corporal punishment among other forms of abuse, meted on them by teachers, parents and fellow pupils.
The report shows that in some schools, Parent Teacher Associations and School Management Committees assented to corporal punishment as long as the canes do not exceed two.
Another study by ANPPCAN and Save the Children shows that Uganda still lags behind in addressing corporal punishment which is at 84 per cent.