Thursday, September 22, 2011


Mhlatane High School in northern Swaziland has been accused by Save The Children of ‘using torture’ against its students.

It says corporal punishment is ‘institutionalised’ at Mhlatane and ‘teachers can administer as many strokes [of the cane] as they desire, much against the limit stipulated in the regulations from the Ministry of Education.

‘Students at this school are also subjected to all forms of inhumane treatment in the name of punishment. The State has known about the torture of students that go on at Mhlatane High School for a long time, but has not done anything to address this violation of fundamental rights.’

This revelation is made by Save The Children in a submission to the United Nations review on human rights in Swaziland.

It cites Mhlatane as the worst case, but says excessive corporal punishment is rife in Swazi schools.

Save The Children reports, ‘The hitting of students by teachers in schools is not limited to strokes of the cane, but includes such methods as a slap with the open hand, kicks and fists.

‘In one case in a school in the south of Swaziland, a young girl was kicked in the groin by her teacher after she refused to lift up her leg during physical education classes. She had told the teacher she cannot lift her leg up because she was wearing nothing underneath. This angered the teacher and earned the girl a kick in the groin.

‘The damage occasioned led to paralysis as the girl walks with difficulty today, and her menstrual cycle was disturbed since then. Although initially protected by the principal and other Ministry of Education officials in Nhlangano, the teacher was eventually arrested after intervention by the girl’s elder sister. The prosecution is still ongoing at the Nhlangano Magistrates Court.’

There is also what Save The Children calls ‘State sponsored torture of children’.

‘On New Year’s Day 2011, State police from the Sithobela and Siphofanenei police stations arrested a young girl of 18 years who was at the time seven months pregnant. The police had been told to arrest her on suspicion of having committed an abortion some two years earlier. The police were acting on information obtained from her father, who was not staying with her at the time. She was arrested and kept in custody for 29 hours.

‘During the interrogation, she was tortured, had police sit on her visibly bulging stomach and treated inhumanely. During these gruelling 29 hours, the heavily pregnant 18 year old was shuffled between two police stations, that is Sithobela and Siphofaneni, and subject to more torture. No charges were preferred against her.

‘In April 2010, a group of 49 Grade VI pupils were subjected to torture in the hands of police officers over missing money, E10 (approximately US$1.40).

‘The pupils from Malkerns Valley Primary School were ordered to do 200 squats in order to force the culprit to own up to stealing the money. The 200 squats were beyond the ability of children of this age (most of whom were on average 11 years old).

Save The Children goes on, ‘In November 2010, an 18-year old Grade VI pupil was tortured by State police from Bhunya Police Station on suspicion that he had killed another person.

As a result the young boy could hardly walk for two weeks, during which time he missed school. Police denied ever torturing the boy, but admitted to having ‘interviewed’ him. The boy stated that he was taken to the police station, where he was made to lie facing upwards on a bench, with his hands tied underneath. His head was then covered with a plastic bag just below the neck. One officer then sat on his chest, and told him to pat the bench when he wanted to speak.

‘He was also physically assaulted, kicked on the ribs, and beaten under the feet. He was later released and no charges were preferred against him. Police spokeswoman, Wendy Hleta was quick to State that the allegations of torture were unfounded. No investigations were launched into this matter.’

In its report Save The Children calls on the Swaziland Government to make corporal punishment in schools and society generally illegal.

See also





No comments: