New student death puts corporal punishment debate back in focus

31Aug 2018
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
New student death puts corporal punishment debate back in focus

THE death of a primary school pupil after reportedly being beaten up by his teacher in Bukoba, Kagera Region has triggered a huge public outcry with one government ministry blaming the law covering corporal punishment in schools and how it is implemented.

Sperius Eradius (13).

Kibeat primary school student Sperius Eradius (13) was pronounced dead on Monday this week following heavy physical punishment from teacher Respicius Patrick on suspicion of stealing the handbag of another teacher at the school.

Separate statements from the Ministry for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children; Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC); and Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) were availed to the media yesterday condemning the incident and calling for firm steps to be taken to prevent a repeat.

According to TSC permanent secretary Winifrida Rutaindurwa, the incident reflected how fast teaching ethics appear to be declining in the country.

Rutaindurwa said she has directed the commission’s Bukoba district secretary to conduct a preliminary investigation of what happened and take stern measures against other teachers found to be promoting such violent pupil punishments in schools.

“The commission also recommends that children’s protection desks should be established in schools for exactly that purpose,” she added.

The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly’s and Children communication officer, Erasto Ching’oro, said the incident was totally in violation of the Child’s Act No. 2 of 2009 which states that “every child has the right to be protected,” and thus deserving of strong condemnation all round.

According to Ching’oro, the Child’s Act analyses types of punishments which children can be given as per age, body mass, and brainpower.

He noted that violence against children is on the increase across the country, and called on parents and guardians to stop giving their kids heavy physical punishments and instead give them partial retributions that can’t harm them physically or mentally.

TAMWA executive director Edda Sanga also expressed grave concern over the decline of schoolteacher ethics in the country.

“Such punishments as this one reported from Bukoba only serve to affect children in a negative manner, both physically and psychologically,” Sanga said.

She called on relevant government authorities to send a strong reminder to all teachers to the effect that violence against students, in any form, should not be tolerated.

Last year, 11-year-old Standard One pupil Daudi Kaila of Matwiga Primary School in Chunya District, Mbeya Region also died after receiving heavy physical punishment from the school’s head teacher.

In October 2016, five teachers were caught on film savagely beating up a student until he could be seen writhing in pain on the staffroom floor at a secondary school in Mbeya.

The student was only saved by another teacher who intervened. The five assaulters were said to be trainee teachers at the time and the incident ended their dreams of ever being full teachers.