What you need to know:
- The children of Kenya have been protected from any form of physical and psychological abuse by the Children’s Act since 2001.
- The legislation is progressive, with the Basic Education Act (2013) also protecting pupils from physical punishment and mental harassment in schools.
Against the background of arson in some schools and a lack of discipline shown by students returning to school after a nine-month break occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha recently suggested that corporal punishment (read caning) ought to be brought back in the country’s learning institutions.
This proposal has ignited a healthy public debate in the traditional and social media. Allow me to share some views from outside Kenya.
Banned in Sweden
Sweden has, for many years, led the international fight against corporal and physiological punishment of children.
Corporal punishment was banned in Swedish schools way back in 1958. Sweden was also the first country in the world to criminalise all forms of violence against children in 1979.
The then-new law more than 40 years ago created a stir both in Sweden and internationally. But it soon became a normative example and, in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed 10 years later, paragraph 19 clearly states as follows:
“State parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”
It continues: “Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide the necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.”
The children of Kenya have been protected from any form of physical and psychological abuse by the Children’s Act since 2001. The legislation is progressive, with the Basic Education Act (2013) also protecting pupils from physical punishment and mental harassment in schools.
Psychological stress and trauma
Those are laws that I would advise strongly against amending.
Many of the nation’s children and youth have suffered psychological stress or trauma due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Withdrawing their legal protection against abuse is not the way to welcome the learners back to school. I also challenge anyone to come up with a life story from a person who has excelled in life because they were beaten at school.
On the contrary, an understanding and compassionate teacher is often the key to unlocking passion for science, mathematics, literature, sports or any other subject. A well-educated youth is one of the country’s competitive advantages.
Don’t jeopardise that advantage by bringing back corporal punishment in schools.
Ms Vicini is Sweden’s Ambassador to Kenya. @carolinevicini