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School CP - August 2003
Corpun file 11798
African Church Information Service, 11 August 2003
Controversy Hits Country's New Style of Punishment
By Rodrick Mukumbira
Botswana's Education Act, which also seeks to limit corporal punishment in schools, is once again in the spotlight, after emerging events indicate that teachers are still acting contrary to laid down rules of meting out punishment to students. Child rights activists have dismissed this section of the Act, saying the government is attempting to give a "barbaric" action a human face. AANA correspondent, Rodrick Mukumbira, reports.
The Act, amended in May, has provisions ranging from conditions of service for teachers to the rights of students, as the country takes great strides to beat illiteracy and lure more children to school.
While children's rights organisations had hoped that the amendment would end corporal punishment, the new Act justifies it if administered by a head teacher or school principal, and has placed the role of loci parentis on the teacher.
It states that the head teacher can delegate his or her caning authority to a teacher. It also specifies the size of the cane, which should be 10 millimetres thick and 30 centimetres long. Under the Act, no child should be caned more than five times in the palm or across the buttocks.
There should also be a register for every student lashed, detailing the name of the student, head-teacher's name or that of the teacher delegated, nature of the offence and date. Male teachers are also barred under the act from caning female students.
"The Act spells out conditions under which caning can be done, as well as how it should be done, and all schools are bound by that Act," says Kelaotswe, adding: "Indiscriminate and unreasonable caning is prohibited by this Act."
Child rights organisations say the government is trying to give a "barbaric" action a human face.
According to Childline Botswana, the retention of corporal punishment is a "disappointment" for a country that has not only signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also ratified it.
"It is pathetic that the government is hiding under the pretext that the cane is administered under strict conditions," says Penolomi Letshwiti, Childline Botswana's senior social worker.
However, Shatiso Tambule, the acting director of secondary education, defends the role of teachers in administering corporal punishment.
"Teachers come in from the loci parentis position, having been delegated by the head to avoid situations where every little offence is referred to the head," she says, but adds: "They should use the rod sparingly."
She observes that bruises, cuts or severe injuries are a result of teachers acting unprofessionally and getting angry while punishing students.
"Losing one's temper should not be an excuse, as it is unprofessional.
If teachers lose their temper, they should walk away from the scene before doing something quite wrong," she says.
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