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School CP - July 2000

Corpun file 5996


Daily Nation, Nairobi, 14 July 2000

School building set on fire as students strike

By Edmund Kwena

Ten students were arrested yesterday after a riot in which school buildings were burned down.

The students at Ebunangwe High School, Vihiga District, went on strike to protest at caning by teachers and lack of food.

They set fire to kitchen stores and destroyed several bags of maize and beans and school files. They also smashed the windows of over 30 classrooms.

Local District Commissioner Titus Ngoyoni and the divisional police chief, Mr Anderson Wambugu, visited the school to assess the damage.

The arrested students recorded statements at Vihiga police station and were expected to be released.

Trouble started when three suspended students sneaked back into the school compound at night with petrol and mobilised their colleagues to burn down the school.

They alleged that the administration had made a habit of suspending them for flimsy reasons. They complained that they forced to replace every school book they lost.

The students in their grievances alleged that the teachers had been given too much power and were punishing them at will, including caning them on parade.

They accused their boarding master, a Mr Alusa, of "sneaking into the dormitories at night" to punish those who were not asleep.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Ngoyoni said the students had not given him their grievances but he had sent his officers to investigate the matter.

The school was closed down indefinitely to clear the way for investigations.

Meanwhile, Shimo la Tewa High School, Mombasa, was yesterday shut down due to student unrest.

The school's 600 students were ordered out of the compound by headmaster Mohamed Saddique after they boycotted dinner on Wednesday.

The students were pressing for a meeting with Mr Saddique, whom they accused of refusing to see them over their grievances.

A student representative told the Nation: "Our intention was not to cause trouble, but to underscore our desire to meet him. He has been evading us for the past week."

The order to vacate the school compound was communicated to the protesters by the headboy.

The students accused the school authorities of high-handedness and giving them a poor diet.

Islamic preacher Sheikh Khalid Balala, who accompanied the students to the Nation offices, appealed to Mr Saddique to talk to the students to thrash out their grievances.

The students were due to begin their mock examinations on Monday.

Shimo la Tewa is one of the oldest schools at the Coast but has in the recent past been beset by student trouble.

Copyright Nation Newspapers Limited

Corpun file 6065


Daily Nation, Nairobi, 16 July 2000

Opinion and Analysis

Ban The Cane Yes, But We May Live To Rue It

By Magesha Ngwiri

I say, cane them. But think what you are doing while you are at it. For if you are a teacher, and you have not been given express authority by the headteacher to inflict discipline of that nature, you will be committing an offence.

The highest authorities in the land favour banning corporal punishment in school. President Moi has gone on record as saying it. So has Education Minister Kalonzo Musyoka and his Permanent Secretary, Japheth Kiptoon. Each has given plausible reasons, but none has said what is to replace the cane should this rather drastic step be taken. Drastic because caning, especially in primary school, has been part of our experience for so long that to spare the rod will be something akin to a social revolution.

No, I am not a sadist. I don't have the heart to pick up an implement and heap it on my children even when they have behaved like little devils. But before I consider throwing away the rather stout rod, I keep it out of their reach, on top of the wardrobe (oh, yes, they know it is there, because I have told them so and shown it to them), I have to think of a few reasons why I put it there in the first place. That is the time words like "deterrence" spring to mind.

But since there is a new awareness that caning may not, after all, be such a bright idea in the light of recent developments, the issue must be discussed. Here are a few reasons.

In mid-June, a 13-year-old Standard Seven pupil of a Machakos primary school was hospitalised with a fracture and severe bruises after her teacher used a rubber whip to beat her about the hips, back and arm. She reportedly collapsed and fractured her arm.

In July, 1966, three Limuru primary school teachers ganged up and whipped a whole class. One of the pupils, a girl, collapsed and died. The teachers were arrested, tried and acquitted. The evidence, it was said in court, was not enough to convict them.

The same year, a 14-year-old Kitui schoolgirl died 10 hours after her teacher beat her for making noise in class. Nothing further was reported on the matter. It is not clear whether the teacher is on death-row where he belongs.

These and other atrocities visited on pupils and students have periodically been reported, raising a furore that always dies too soon, a sign that there is a lot more going on in our primary schools than meets the eye.

It is a fact that in every society, in every profession, there are misfits who belong in psychiatric wards. There are those teachers who go to school in the morning feeling frustrated by their wives or acquaintances. They vent their frustrations on their hapless pupils.

Then there are those who feel demoralised over low pay and even lower self- esteem and, since they cannot very well go and beat up someone in authority, the pupil provides a welcome target.

But the worst lot, who, ones hopes, are a minority, derive intense (mainly sexual) pleasure from inflicting pain. These perverted fellows are known as sadists. But nobody knows who they are until they get into action.

Then, of course, there is a wide spectrum of individual teachers imbued with the desire to mould the characters of their wards. They try counselling. Sometimes, it does not work. They then punish through menial chores - a time- wasting and often fruitless effort. If the mischief is serious enough, they may suspend the culprits. But that process is even slower. So, frequently, they resort to "Tickler" - as the special cane for Pip was called (in Dickens' Great Expectations). It is not only immediate (an important ingredient in crime and punishment), it is a lot more efficient.

These teachers do not derive any pleasure from punishing their pupils. To them, punishing students is a necessary evil, but they cannot very well let their pupils get away with everything just because society frowns on corporal punishment.

This is a more intricate issue than it appears at first. To start with, the Education Act merely spells out regulations as to how punishment is to be administered, by whom and in what circumstances. So, if the Government is intent on outlawing caning, the only way is to amend the Education Act, which, incidentally, is as full of loopholes as a sieve. Any such amendment requires participation by Parliament, a prolonged process.

To my mind, the problem with the widespread brutalisation of schoolchildren is that the strictures set up in the Education Act to govern this mode of chastisement are routinely ignored by ignorant bullies. They believe that without the cane they cannot be feared or obeyed. The Act states clearly that only the headteacher or anyone else he designates for the purpose, say his deputy or the discipline master, can administer the cane, and this only through a specific procedure.

So those fellows in far-flung areas of the Republic who go around wielding a rod like the God wrath to make pupils tremble are in clear infringement of the law. Unfortunately, the same law does not state exactly what should be done to those who maim their pupils. Should they be charged in court with assault? Should they, in case a pupil dies after caning, be charged with murder or manslaughter?

Casual interviews with a cross-section of my colleagues elicited interesting answers. On the whole, men, whether parents or not, were in favour of corporal punishment. So, interestingly, were single women. But on the whole, mothers were dead set against corporal punishment of any kind, arguing that if they do not beat their own children at home, they did not see how total strangers should dare.

But there is one point to think about. Anyone who has seen what goes on in American inner city schools would be very careful about suggesting a ban on corporal punishment. There, the unruly ineducable fellows call all the shots. Kenya's teachers should never be made to quake in front of their drugged knife- or even gun-wielding pupils - never. Let us think this whole thing over.

Incidentally, when I asked my 11-year-old son whether he thought corporal punishment should be banned, he had this to say: "No comment." Won't he make a consummate diplomat, that chap?

Corpun file 5997


Daily Nation, Nairobi, 23 July 2000

Caning banned in schools

By Catherine Gicheru


The ban on caning in schools is to be enforced.

Though the ban was imposed in 1996 through a circular issued by the Director of Education, it was neither gazetted nor enforced.

Corporal punishment was introduced in 1972 under the Education (School Discipline) Regulations under the education law.

These regulations have also now been repealed, according to a circular by the Head of the Civil Service, Dr Richard Leakey, dated July 13.

This follows recommendations by the Standing Committee on Human Rights (Kenya) in its report presented to President Moi three weeks ago.

In calling for abolition of caning, the committee suggested that parents, teachers and the society be educated on the harm done by corporal punishment and the alternative to it.

The committee also recommends that counselling programmes for teachers, parents and students be strengthened.

According to the law, corporal punishment can only be administered in cases of gross misconduct, and even then, only by the headteacher or in his presence. Under the regulations, it was illegal to mistreat or humiliate the student.

Other recommendations which have since been effected include the right for the committee to inspect all prisons without notifying anyone in advance.


Copyright Nation Newspapers Limited

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