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School CP - June 2005

Corpun file 16055

The Namibian, Windhoek, 23 June 2005

Child Witness Problems Halt School Beating Trial

By Werner Menges

THE hearing of a damages claim against Government over allegations that a primary school teacher still meted out corporal punishment at a Windhoek school almost two years ago - 12 years after the practice was declared unconstitutional in Namibia - was brought to a sudden halt in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday.

The court, with Acting Judge Raymond Heathcote presiding, had been set to continue hearing testimony in a case in which a 15-year-old boy, Nicky Kapurunje Uirab, is claiming damages of N$50 000 from the Minister of Education and a teacher, A Tjatindi, based on allegations that the teacher gave him a series of beatings at Olof Palme Primary School in the capital on October 23 and 24 2003.

The trial did not proceed, though, and has now been postponed to July 5 to 7.

Susan Vivier, one of the lawyers representing Uirab, told Acting Judge Heathcote yesterday that they had to ask for a postponement because of the serious problems they were experiencing with some of the children that they wanted to call to testify in support of Uirab's case.

Legal Assistance Centre lawyer Beatrix Greyvenstein, who is instructing Vivier on Uirab's behalf, told the court in an affidavit that children who witnessed the alleged assaults had not arrived at scheduled pre-testimony consultations with her and Vivier after the first day of trial proceedings on Tuesday.

The father of one of these children has not been prepared to discuss the matter at all with the lawyers, she added.

Greyvenstein indicated in the affidavit that they wanted a postponement so that she could again approach the children's parents to try to persuade them to give evidence.

If that does not succeed, she would have no option but to subpoena the parents to bring their children to court to testify, but this was a course of action that she would prefer to avoid, she stated.

Government lawyer Philip Swanepoel initially objected to a postponement, telling the Acting Judge that he wanted to avoid a situation where the children who had already testified in the case - including Uirab himself - and the children who still have to give evidence would have an opportunity to talk to each other and corroborate what they would be telling the court.

The Minister and Tjatindi deny that the teacher beat Uirab.

Uirab told the court on Tuesday that the teacher, while questioning him and another boy over an incident where a girl's cellphone went missing at the school, first slapped each of them through their faces three times, and then started beating them with a piece of plastic pipe which had a wire inside.

He claimed that this took place in view of other children, and that he and the other boy received another beating from Tjatindi the next day.

He alleged that his backside was injured and hurt to such an extent that he missed two days of school, and could not sit down for eight to 10 days.

Corporal punishment in Namibian schools has been illegal since the Supreme Court declared in April 1991 that the practice was unconstitutional.

The other boy who is claimed to have been beaten might now also institute a damages claim, Vivier further indicated yesterday.

Copyright © 2005 The Namibian. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (

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