Time to End Corporal Punishment in Schools

Time to End Corporal Punishment in Schools

In spite of several campaigns, Acts of Parliament and internatioanl treaties against corporal punishment, the problems persists in Nigerian schools today. More actions needed.



"Our teacher punishes us very hard. He makes us go down on our knees over small stones or bottle screw tops for over one hour. He flogs us always over little things” — says anonymous 13- year-old JSS3 pupil.

In 2012, a teacher, Mrs. Njideka Imoka, reportedly flogged her pupil, Chidinma Ukachukwu, to death. The girl was a pupil of St. John of God Secondary School Awka, Anambra State. Her offence: She refused to do her assignment.

In Osun State, Joshua Ajayi, a pupil of Geometry International Group of Schools was allegedly beaten to death by his teacher over a case of truancy. The killer teacher is still facing trial.

In Port Harcourt, Rivers State a 13-year-old student of Shiloh Hills Remedial and Advanced College was allegedly flogged till he slumped and died by his principal, Mr. Chudi Nwoko.

Welcome to the world of Nigeria’s wicked educators.

But is there any reason to abuse or torture a child in order to correct inappropriate behaviour?

Corporal punishment is a disciplinary method in which a supervising adult deliberately inflicts pain upon a child in response to a child’s unacceptable behaviour and/or inappropriate language. In corporal punishment, the adult usually hits various parts of the child’s body with a hand, or with canes, paddles, yardsticks, belts, or other objects expected to cause pain and fear.

In spite of several campaigns, Acts of Parliament and treaties against this act, the situation unfortunately persists in our schools (both public and private) today.

Public schools across Nigeria are still like police stations where out-of-control teachers apply the severe form of corporal punishment on hapless pupils.

The result is that more pupils are dropping out of school out of fear.

Legal Tools

The prevalence of corporal punishment in our schools today is contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child which Nigeria, as a member nation, ratified and signed in 1990. Article 19 of the UNCRC says: “State parties shall take all legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child”.

In 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly agreed to a bill banning all forms of corporal punishment in public schools in the state.

Yet, many teachers continue to flout the rule banning the corporal punishment.

In many private schools, unprofessional school owners employ untrained educators who unleash their personal frustrations on hapless pupils. Also in public schools, corporal punishment is thought to be the only way to correct inappropriate behaviour in pupils.

Subsequently, pupils continue to be at the receiving end of injurious, sadistic and deadly corporal punishment.

International concern for the danger corporal punishment poses to the right and well-being of pupils has long been established.

In 2001, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children was launched to speed up the end of corporal punishment of children across the world. The campaign is also aimed at ensuring that the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and other human rights bodies are accepted and that governments move speedily to implement legal reform and public education programmes. The campaign is about preventing all forms of violence against children in schools, including corporal punishment, sexual abuse, neglect, verbal and emotional abuse, bullying, peer to peer violence, use of weapons and harassment in school and on the journey to and from school.

Corporal punishment of children breaches their fundamental human rights to respect for human dignity and physical integrity. Its legality in almost every state worldwide — in contrast to other forms of inter-personal violence — challenges the universal right to equal protection under the law.

Two out of three school-going children in this country are victims of some form of corporal punishment and majority of the punishment takes place in public schools.

Research has shown corporal punishment to be ineffective.

Studies have linked it to adverse physical, psychological and educational outcomes including, increased aggressive and destructive behaviour, increased disruptive classroom behaviour, vandalism, poor school achievement, poor attention span, increased drop-out rate, school avoidance and school phobia, low self-esteem anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, suicide and retaliation against teacher.

There have been several cases of permanent injuries and even deaths. In most cases the health history of students are not considered.

In Osun State in 2008, a pupil was said to have lost an eye in a public school due to flogging by an irate teacher. In another incident, a sickle cell patient was flogged in a school. She later died of the crisis.

The imperative for removing adults’ assumed rights to hit children is that of fundamental human rights. Many children will never reach their potential if they are in a learning environment of fear and threats. The urgency with which we should address the issue is still lacking. As we address the philosophical defects of using violence against children, we must address what can be done to “repair” the victims (like Omotunde Azeez) who have yet a long way to go in life.

The UNCRC convention states, in its Article 19, to protect children from “all forms of physical and mental violence” while in the care of parents and others. Hitting children is also a dangerous practice, which can cause physical and psychological injury and even death.

Promoting positive, non-violent forms of discipline empowers parents and reduces family stress. The use of violence is a practice that can hamper the child’s development of his or her communication ability; can encourage aggressive behaviour and destroy the child’s self-confidence and internal value system. Physical punishment generates a destructive relationship based on force, between the adult and the young person; a relationship that can hinder trust within the family. The Convention on the Rights of the Child offers valuable tools to combat the use of corporal punishment. It requires countries to take all necessary legislative measures to prohibit all forms of violence. It also encourages countries to take preventive action, including through human rights education and by creating an environment conducive to the administration of discipline “in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity”.

I believe that in addition to legal prohibition, sensitisation of education stakeholders — in particular, parents and teachers, school administrators — to the negative impact of physical violence is a key aspect of the process leading to non-violent schools. Schoolchildren deserve better than to be beaten for their so-called errors or disobedience. They deserve constant and quality guidance and attention; creative and enriching dialogue; and stimulating and challenging education.

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