Brutal beatings end use of cane

1st September 2006 at 01:00

Outrage at widespread 'torture' in schools leads to corporal punishment ban, reports Wachira Kigotho

Corporal punishment in schools has been outlawed after two cases of severe beatings by teachers - one of which left a 20-year-old student unable to walk.

Education minister Ms Geraldine Bitamazire said many teachers were torturing students under the guise of enforcing discipline.

John Mbabazi, director of education, said teachers who breaking the new rule will be sacked. Headteachers and local education officials have been ordered to report teachers who cane students to the ministry of education.

Mr Mbabazi said: "Corporal punishment for students in schools must stop with immediate effect."

The ban also applies to any other form of punishment that may cause injury to the students.

Although corporal punishment is ordered by criminal courts in Uganda, caning of students by teachers is not supported by law.

Ms Bitamazire said any values derived from using corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure had been eroded by random and irresponsible beatings of students by teachers and prefects.

The ban follows an incident at Mandela Secondary School in northern Uganda on August 2. Five students were admitted into hospital with severe head injuries after being assaulted by their teachers.

The students had failed to report a fight between two other students and the teachers decided to punish the entire dormitory.

Two weeks earlier Beatrice Achieng, a 20-year-old form five student at Katikamu Seventh Day Adventist School, in Lowero district, north of Kampala, received severe back injuries in a beating by her geography teacher for failing to complete an assignment. She remains in hospital and cannot walk unaided.

In addition to the ban on caning, the government has urged schools to stop punishing pupils by forcing them to do manual labour and instead give them extra homework or other education-related sanctions.

Current punishments include fetching firewood for teachers, digging holes and filling them up again, digging in the school garden for several days, cutting wood and making charcoal, fetching water and uprooting tree stumps.

Schools will now also have to keep records of disciplinary actions, indicating the type of offence, punishment and details of who administered it.

Mr Mbabazi said: "Where these guidelines are ignored, or abused, the culprits will be held responsible for their actions."

Several teachers at Mandela school have been sacked and will soon appear in court to answer assault charges.

The headmaster of the school has also been suspended pending investigations by the police and education officials. The school has been closed indefinitely.

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