Zimbabwe’s High Court has banned corporal punishment at schools and homes. The ruling comes after disgruntled parents had complained following the thorough beating of their children, some as young as six years old by teachers in schools.
For most Zimbabwean’s children, corporal punishment and violence at home has been a regular experience. Teachers have reportedly been using various corporal disciplinary mechanisms to punish school children, some of them first graders, and many parents have complained after their children sustained bruises after punishment.
Corporal punishment remains a reality in many African schools, a colonial legacy used to enforce discipline in the African child. The form of punishment is often routine, and arbitrary, and the unjust practice continues despite objections from some parents and rights groups. In many cases, children have been severely beaten, sustaining serious injuries in the process.
The Zimbabwean parents who filed the case through support from the Children’s Trust, said their children are always severely beaten with rubber pipes for minor mistakes such as late arrival to school, incomplete assignments, among other issues.
“My child suffered major bruises and I took photographs and pictures…..she had deep bruises on her back and she could hardly sleep properly. I posted the pictures of my daughter on our WhatsApp group for other parents to observe and it turned out that other children had also been assaulted,” the Chronicle newspaper quoted one of the parents saying after the court ruling.
The court ruling read that the children should not be subjected to any form of violence and such corporal punishment breached their rights under Zimbabwe’s Constitution. If a child misbehaves, it’s the duty of the parent or teacher to deny the child certain privileges such as access to television, or pocket money.
The judgment further warned that corporal punishment for children was unconstitutional and parents and teachers should not lay their hands on children even if they misbehave, but use other methods to enforce discipline, which do not infringe on children’s rights.
Case of Kenya
For many years Kenyan school children also went through a rough experiences of corporal punishment, used by teachers as a way of instilling discipline. Pupils and students were beaten to maintain classroom discipline and to punish children for poor academic performance.
According to the Kenya Education (School Discipline) Regulations, corporal punishment may only be administered for certain behavior, after a full inquiry, and in the presence of a witness, but not in the presence of other pupils. Only the headteacher is permitted to administer corporal punishment, and he or she must use a cane or strap of regulation size, hitting boys on the buttocks and girls on the palm of the hand.
According to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, school corporal punishment is incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world’s most widely-ratified human rights treaty. Other human rights bodies have also found some forms of school-based corporal punishment to be cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and a practice that interferes with a child’s right to receive an education and to be protected from violence.