Kenya: Sadistic teachers torment children with canes
February 7, 2015
Yesterday I came across a disturbing video of corporal punishment at a Kenyan school. I do not have a source for the video, so the information is a little sketchy.
The video reminds me of my primary schooling in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Teachers were tight-fisted tyrants with who tormented students sticks, rulers and canes. The rules were often silly things like, “Do not walk with your hands in your pockets.”
Some teachers put obsessive efforts into inflicting as much pain as possible. One teacher—a tall drunk man, popular for stinking of Smirnoff Vodka—applied home-made pepper (chilli) paste to his cane. Another used a long wooden ruler on our bare knuckles.
Pupils were guaranteed at least one caning a day. The gate closed at 7.45am (although school started at 8am). If a pupil got to the gate at 7.46 am, he or she was caned. A pupil was caned for getting a sum wrong. Sometimes, it ranged from petty beating to truly inane ones. One teacher, who was annoyed that my handwriting was illegible, hit my knuckles with a rule until I bled.
One of my favourite teachers in secondary school was a short inebriated man. He flirted openly with female students and encouraged boys to do the same. “You boys are sleeping,” he would tell the older boys in my class.
He had one “victim class” a day. Basically, he would walk into a class and cane students to “sharpen [his] caning technique”. His canings were funny because classes were very large. He would cane half of the students and then leave. Each day students wagered on which end he was going to start.
There is no evidence that even non-sadistic forms of corporal punishment are effective in enforcing discipline. Most researchers agree that physical punishment is counter-productive. More importantly, it is damaging. It is a form of violence and abuse.
Kenya has a serious problem of child abuse in schools. One child was seriously injured by a teacher. He lost use of his lower limbs. In another incident, a school principal beat a 7-year-old to death.
We need to start a continent-wide conversation and spread awareness about these practices.