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Tanzanians debate corporal punishment after pupil was ‘beaten to death’

Human rights activists in Tanzania have called for the abolition of corporal punishments that include beating of students in schools, after a family said its son succumbed to blows inflicted by his school teacher.

Sperius Eradius (13), a fifth-grader in a primary school in the northern province of Kagera, died on 27 August a few days after being beaten by a schoolteacher for taking a teacher’s purse.

Having initially refused to bury him, the student’s parents finally gave in after the teacher’s arrest and the suspension of the school’s head teacher.

Severe sanctions must be taken against teachers who commit criminal acts against students to set an example.

On Friday, the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) “condemned with all its might this cruel and inhuman act while hoping that the beatings and murders at school will not be repeated”.

According to the association, in 2016, a teenage girl in the south of the country was beaten alternately by four teachers after being forced to take off her underwear. Her crime was persistent absenteeism from school, according to TAMWA.

Tanzania’s law on corporate punishment

Corporal punishment is framed by a 1979 text that allows only beating a student’s hands or buttocks with a light, flexible stick.

The text specifies that a pupil may be punished only if he has committed a serious offence.

It adds that the punishment is supposed to be “reasonable”, stipulating against inflicting more than four blows on a student, and only school principals are authorised to do so.

Another Tanzanian NGO, the Law and Human Rights Center (LHRC) cautioned that ‘school is supposed to be a very safe place for the student to enjoy his fundamental right to education’.

“Severe sanctions must be taken against teachers who commit criminal acts against students to set an example,” read the statemnt from LHRC.

Gov’t response

The Minister of Health, Ummy Mwalimu, also in charge of children’s rights, as well as the National Education Commission denounced ‘a serious abuse of the text governing corporal punishment’ and also called for sanctions.

Mwalimu added that his ministry had sent an independent pathologist to investigate the matter.

“Every child has the right to be protected as per the Child’s Act No2 of 2009. As a minister appointed to preserve the law, I strongly condemn all acts of violations committed against children in the society,” he wrote on her official Facebook account.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) said told journalists on Thursday it had dirceted its district secretary in Bukoba to conduct an investigation and take stern measures against teachers found to be promoting violent punishments.

‘‘The commission also recommends that children’s protection desks should be established in schools exactly for that purpose,’‘ said TSC’s Winifrida Rutaindurwa.

In a report published in February 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for a ban on corporal punishment after finding that “this widespread practice, (…) which often takes brutal and humiliating forms in Tanzanian schools, also affects school attendance.

By Africanews

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