Reuters, September 9, 1999
Human Rights Watch: Teacher violence rampant in Kenya - Calls for ban on corporal punishment
Kenyan schoolchildren are regularly beaten, whipped or punched by their teachers for classroom offences as minor as fidgeting, a human rights group said in a report released on Thursday.
Teachers use bamboo canes, wooden sticks or even rubber whips to punish children for being late, wearing a torn uniform or not being able to answer a question, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
Children are also often punished, sometimes along with the whole class, for failing to reach a teacher's target mark in an examination, said the report entitled ``Spare the Child: Corporal Punishment in Kenyan Schools.''
Kenyan authorities permit the limited use of corporal punishment in schools, but those limits are routinely ignored -- often with such brutality that children are left with broken bones, knocked-out teeth and internal bleeding.
``(Once) the teacher was very angry because some of the girls failed a test so he gave these girls a choice: three slaps from his hand or ten strokes from the cane,'' said 12-year-old Elizabeth, one of 200 children interviewed for the report.
``This girl chose the three slaps and so he hit her on the face three times, very hard and her mouth was bloody and her two teeth came out,'' she said.
In the most extreme cases, beatings have left children disabled and even dead, but teachers are rarely questioned or disciplined over classroom violence, the report said.
Parents interviewed by a five-member Human Rights Watch team in May said they feared their children would be thrown out of school if they complained about teachers' behaviour.
``Not only is this corporal punishment a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of children, it also affects the children's basic right to education,'' said Yodon Thonden who led the Human Rights Watch research team.
Kenyan teachers complain of difficult working conditions, and poor salaries of less than $60 a month.
``Kenyan teachers are underpaid, poorly trained and faced with large classrooms of over 50 in a class... This does not however forgive the use of violence against children to correct their behaviour,'' Thonden said.
The report called on the Kenyan government to ban corporal punishment in schools and to train teachers in alternative means of maintaining discipline and motivating children.