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Corporal punishment in Sierra Leone

Video clip of school caning

Schoolgirl being publicly caned

With comments by C. Farrell

Outdoor punishment of a girl and two boys (3 minutes)

Sierra Leone, on the West African coast, was once part of the British Empire. School corporal punishment is lawful. According to anecdotal evidence, it is typically administered with a cane to the student's buttocks.

 In this video clip, we see students of the Muslim Agricultural High School gathered in the open air in 2007 or earlier. All those near the camera are boys. The girls are in a separate group in the distance.

 On an elevated platform, a girl in Muslim dress takes up a kneeling position. She is then caned by the headmaster on the buttocks and/or the lower back -- it is hard to be certain as the action is taking place some way from the camera, and the picture quality is not brilliant. At each stroke she lets out a small shriek.

 The "kneeling on the ground" posture is presumably intended to provide stability, though it seems not ideal from the accuracy point of view when the person wielding the cane is standing up. The cane used is long and whippy.

 After five strokes the audience becomes restive, apparently signalling that in their view the punishment has gone far enough. At this point the headmaster summons up to the stage a boy, who kneels and is given three strokes, which he appears to accept silently and without complaint. When he gets up, he seems to be more concerned with brushing the dirt off the knees of his long trousers than anything else.

 The girl is still kneeling at the punishment place, and the headmaster returns to her and administers a final, sixth, stroke. This makes me wonder whether she was scheduled to receive six all along, and the headmaster had interrupted himself to punish a perpetrator of the protests against the caning of the girl.

 Finally the girl is let go, whereupon a younger boy in short trousers is brought forward and also receives three strokes in the same way. At first he does not quite know what he is supposed to do with his arms. After the first stroke he briefly rubs his buttocks. When he gets up after being caned he clasps his backside.

 At the end, the headmaster makes a speech in which he expresses the hope that the spectacle will have served as a warning to all. It is not clear what offences the punished students had committed.


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