Wednesday, March 27, 2013


A 17-year-old Swaziland schoolgirl was thrashed with 22 lashes of the cane by a male teacher because her mother is too poor to pay her school fees.

Save the Children Fund Director Dumsani Mnisi called the action ‘inhumane’ and ‘a crime’.

Local media in Swaziland say the girl from Emtfonjeni High School was one of a group of school students who had been told to stay away from school until their school fees had been paid. When they nonetheless turned up for classes they were beaten.

The severity of the punishment breaks regulations in Swaziland that state students can only be given a maximum of six lashes with the cane and male teachers should not beat female students.

Save the Children Fund Director Dumsani Mnisi told the Swazi Observer newspaper, ‘This is really inhumane. Beating a child for the fact that he/she hasn’t paid school fees is a crime on its own.’ 

Mnisi added, ‘How can you beat someone for something beyond his/her control? This is very worrying. There are clear guidelines for corporal punishment.’

He said the teacher who did this should be arrested and relieved of his duties.

The schoolgirl told the Observer, ‘What is very painful is that my mother is unable to pay my school fees because she is unemployed.’

Minister of Education and Training Wilson Ntshangase told the newspaper he not believe there was a teacher who could treat a child this way. 

‘First of all no teacher is supposed to punish pupils. The guidelines for corporal punishment state that only the headteacher is responsible for punishing pupils,’ he said. 

This is not the first time children at Emtfonjeni High School have been whipped because their parents could not afford to pay school fees. In July 2011 media in Swaziland reported children were given up to 10 lashes each. The school principal at the time Themba Shongwe confirmed to the newspaper that the pupils were being beaten for coming to school without the fees.

‘We have been telling them over and over not to come to school without the money but they still come. We had no option but to give them punishment for not obeying the instruction to stay at home,’ the newspaper reported him saying.

When asked how true it was that the pupils were being given as many as 10 strokes he said, ‘If a pupil is told to stay at home but defies the instruction on the first day, you give that pupil a certain number of strokes. But if the same pupil comes to school again the following day, you have no choice but to increase the number of strokes.’

These are not the only examples of children being abused by their schools.  In October 2011, Swaziland was told by the United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review it must stop flogging children at school because it violated their human rights. But the fact that the practice of whippings is so ingrained in Swazi schools was demonstrated by Sibongile Mazibuko, President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), who said at the time he was surprised that inflicting corporal punishment was against a child’s rights. 
Save the Children told the United Nations the treatment of children in Swaziland schools amounted to ‘torture’.

There are countless examples of extreme and often perverted use of corporal punishment in schools. At Mpofu High School girls are flogged by teachers on their bare flesh and if they resist they are chained down so the beating can continue. They get up to 40 strokes at a time.

At Phonjwane primary school teachers lined up to whip 20 children. Each child received 27 lashes as nine teachers took it in turn to give each one three cuts. The children’s crime? They had been watching two boys fighting.

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