In a statement posted on its website yesterday, the New York-based advocacy NGO termed the whipping of students retrogressive and child abuse.
The RC arrived at Kiwanja secondary school in Chunya District on Thursday last week, ordered sticks and began whipping 26 students who were found with cell phones earlier on Sunday which were confiscated by teachers. Hours later at night, two dormitories caught fire and authorities maintain that the students were responsible for the fire.
“Tanzania should make necessary reforms to ensure children’s safety in schools. It’s time President (John) Magufuli joined the dozens of African leaders who have outlawed corporal punishment in schools,” reads the statement.
HRW wondered why the trainee teachers who were filmed caning children in Mbeya in 2016 were suspended and demoted, and still President Magufuli has publicly praised Chalamila for caning students in the latest incident.
The president had commended Chalamila for doing a good job of disciplining the students. Chalamila came back to the school and suspended all 392 learners in form five and six. He said that 26 who were caught with cell phones before fire gutted the dormitories hours later must pay 500,000/- each while the remaining 366 will pay 200,000/- each before being readmitted. The money will be used to repair the burnt dormitories, the RC underlined.
“It’s time to imagine a better future for Tanzania’s children, free of violence, instead of glorifying this retrogressive punishment without acknowledging harmful practices that have no place in today’s society. It’s unacceptable for President Magufuli to justify caning in schools today just because it was acceptable in the past. And the commander who administered the beatings has both failed to set ethical standards as a leader and has set a dangerous precedent.”
The NGO maintains that studies show violence has long-term negative effects on children’s development, noting that “children who are beaten, caned, assaulted or insulted are more likely to develop learning problems, and participate less in class.”
“Let’s be clear. Corporal punishment is child abuse. It is brutal, widespread and state-sanctioned in Tanzania, but the government gives mixed signals about tackling the problem. In August, Tanzania banned teachers of lower grades from entering classrooms with canes. In recent years, Human Rights Watch has spoken to many children who are caned, punched or slapped by teachers.”
The statement asserts that quality education requires good learning environments, where teachers can manage different behavioral problems, understand their students and manage classrooms without resorting to violence. These needs can be accomplished if the government guarantees safety in schools and provides teachers with training programs that equip them with violence-free problem-solving skills in schools.
“If Tanzania is to address inaccessibility of quality education for millions of children who are still out of school around the country, it will have to find ways to make the environments in schools safe and enriching,” the statement added.