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School CP - November 2000


Daily Nation, Nairobi, 29 November 2000


Abolish Caning in School System Now

What could make a teacher, assumed to be sane, administer 56 strokes of the cane on a child? What crime could an 11-year-old have possibly committed to deserve such punishment, considering that, at such a tender age, whatever it is could be excused on the ground of ignorance and innocence - yes, innocence?

According to reports, it happened in Marakwet District on October 25. But, apparently, it was not until recently that the police started looking for the teacher, who has since gone into hiding.

There are gaping holes in the report, which first appeared in print on November 6, making the whole matter quite curious. If, as reported, the Standard Five pupil was caned so heavily in October and was actually treated in a hospital, how come the police took more than two weeks to start looking for the suspect? Were they never told? And when they did learn that such an assault had occurred, why did it take more than a month before it was noticed that the suspect had escaped? Couldn't the mother, who is also a teacher, have worked a lot harder to ensure justice was done by her son?

And what kind of sadistic beast could inflict such dehumanising punishment on a child, anyway? This, in itself, is not an issue with national implications because pupils have actually died after corporal punishment. However, it does revive a debate which died as soon as it had been raised by no less an authority than President Moi.

Last June 22, the President said caning in schools should be abolished, arguing that modern pupils were too young and too tender to endure such punishment. This sentiment was echoed by Education Minister Kalonzo Musyoka and Permanent Secretary Japheth Kiptoon.

But nothing has ever come of it, apparently. A Bill to repeal the rather archaic Education Act that prescribes precisely where a headteacher can hit a child, and how often, has never been debated in Parliament. That oversight, or tardiness, is surprising. It is the main reason some teachers can behave in such a hideous manner towards their wards.

There is no good reason corporal punishment should not be abolished in schools. It is a particularly vicious form of child abuse - a vile violation of human rights. Could the Attorney-General get on with it to stop this brutalisation of children.

Copyright � 2000 The Nation.

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