Learners speak out against corporal punishment

By Andrew Magombo

Lilongwe, Mana: Representatives of students from primary, secondary and tertiary education institutions have lashed out at teachers and parents who are still using corporal punishment despite the vice being outlawed in recent years.

The development came to light on Tuesday in Lilongwe as the students deliberated in a panel discussion on child protection in and through schools during the launch of a two-day high level advocacy meeting

Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje giving her statement (c) James Mwale – Mana

The learners complained that many teachers resort to corporal punishment as the primary resort when settling misconduct of a student. It was further revealed that some of the punishments do not tally with the alleged offences as some teachers go as far inflicting serious physical injuries.

One of the panelists, Tendai Mdoka, said some teachers make them crawl a distance of 100 meters on rough surfaces.

Director of Child Welfare Services in the Ministry of Gender McKnight Kalanda delivering his speech (c) James Mwale – Mana

He bemoaned the tendency alleging that the punishment are not fair in the simplest sense as some learners endure long distances to reach school premises.

“We sustain serious injuries due to these punishments and this makes some of us to stop attending school because we live in fear,” said Mdoka

His claim was backed a Malawi Police Service representative at the meeting as well as a recent Malawi Human Rights Commission report on corporal punishment in the country.

For instance, a Ndirande Primary School head teacher slapped a ten-year-old female student 15 times for being late. Unfortunately, she collapsed on the spot and ever since then she intermittently loses her consciousness.

Priscila Nthala of MHRC giving a presentation (c) James Mwale – Mana

Similarly, at Mthema Primary School, a 15-year-old was subjected to regular dubious corporal punishment by her teacher in the aftermath of denying sexual advances..

In her remarks, Minister of Education, Agness Nyalonje, said violence against children will not be tolerated under her watch as the malaise is crippling the education system due to high levels of school drop outs.

The minister added that it is embarrassing seeing young learners coming out to report such cases yet they are public officers who are paid by tax payers’ money to ensure that children are learning in safeguarded environment.

She said: “A child has to leave home safely, learn safely and return safely which is our responsibility to guard these children jealously because whether it happens at home, at school or in between, we are mandated to protect them.”

“For the sake of our children, let us help them with integrity as such I urge all key stakeholders to partner with us as government so that together we can move with a stronger voice and rigorous efforts which will eradicate violence against children.”

Rudolph Swenchk giving his statement (c) James Mwale – Mana

Board Chairperson of Civil Society Education Coalition, Dr Limbani Nsapato, said there is laxity in enforcement of child protection policies hence an increase in cases of abuse and violence.

He said: “We need to popularize these policies because many people are not aware of the basic tenets in child protection which translates to a continued rise in cases of abusing children in various forms including corporal punishment.”

This year’s meeting was supported by other stakeholders like UNICEF, World Vision and Save the Children under the theme “Together for safe and nurturing school environment.”