Thursday, August 22, 2019

Beating banned in Swaziland schools, but ‘no law’ to prosecute teachers who do

There is confusion in Swaziland / eSwatini about whether the use of corporal punishment in schools is illegal even though the government issued a directive banning it.

This emerged at Manzini when a prosecutor refused to take a teacher to court because no ‘legal instrument’ existed.

The case reported by the Times of Swaziland involved a pupil from St Theresa’s Primary School. She and others had been caned and she needed medical treatment. Police were informed and they made a case to go ahead to the magistrates’ court.

The legal prosecutor’s office refused to take it forward. The newspaper reported this was, ‘because there was no legal instrument which confirms that corporal punishment was abolished in schools in the country’.

It added, ‘without the instrument which states that corporal punishment was abolished, there was nothing they could do’. The prosecutor did not deny that the pupils had been beaten.

In 2015 a directive was issued from Swaziland’s Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) stating that corporal punishment was banned in schools. Phineas Magagula, Minister of Education and Training, warned that teachers who beat pupils should be reported to the ministry so that they could be disciplined. The ban was restated in the National Education and Training Sector Policy in 2018.

A number of teachers have been reported to police for beating children since the directive was first issued. As recently as June 2019 a teacher at Gilgal Primary School was arrested after allegedly whipping a 10-year-old boy who needed treatment at a health centre for his injuries. The teacher, Thulile Fortunate Mhlanga, aged 39, was charged under the Children Protection and Welfare Act.

In November 2017 a  male teacher at Lozitha High School was arrested and charged for allegedly beating an 18-year-old female pupil on the buttocks with a pipe because she had not had her hair cut as instructed by the school. In Swaziland an 18-year-old is legally an adult.

In June 2016 the school principal at the Herefords High School was reported to police after allegedly giving a 20-year-old female student nine strokes of the cane on the buttocks.

In September 2015 the Times reported a 17-year-old school pupil died after allegedly being beaten at school. The pupil reportedly had a seizure.

In March 2015 a primary school teacher at the Florence Christian Academy was charged with causing grievous bodily harm after allegedly giving 200 strokes of the cane to a 12-year-old pupil on her buttocks and all over her body.

In 2005 The International Save the Children Alliance published research into Swazi children’s experiences of corporal punishment. Children reported being subjected to corporal punishment at school due to making a noise or talking in class, coming late to school, not completing work, not doing work correctly, failing tests, wearing incorrect uniform items, dropping litter, losing books or leaving them at home.

In 2011, Swaziland was told by the United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review held in Geneva it should stop using corporal punishment in schools, because it violated the rights of children. 

See also

Swaziland police investigate report children illegally beaten to encourage them to do well in exams

Swaziland teacher arrested after boy, 10, beaten for defiance, needed medical treatment

Head teacher charged in beating case

Teachers beat boys on naked buttocks

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