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School CP - June 2003

Botswana Press Agency, 25 June 2003

Childline against child lashing

Government's decision to retain corporal punishment in schools despite Botswana being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a disappointment, Childline Botswana says.

"Government has not only signed the convention, it has also ratified it and why the practice has not been outlawed in our schools is difficult to comprehend," Pelonomi Letshwiti, the organisation's senior social worker, told BOPA in an interview.

Letshwiti said her organisation has on several occasions engaged the government on the issue without any success.

She said Childline will continue its lobbying as it believes practice has to be outlawed.

It is pathetic that the government is hiding under the pretext that the cane is administered under strict conditions.

However, she added, such conditions are only on paper as schools continue to disregard them.

Michael Kelaotswe, a Serowe-based chief education officer, told BOPA that corporal punishment is provided for in the Education Act.

"This is the act which spells out conditions under which canning [sic] can be done as well as how it should be done and all schools are bound by that act," he said.

Kelaotswe said the law stipulates that on the head teacher is authorised to cane the students.

However, the head teacher can delegates his or her caning authority to a teacher.

The law specifies the size of the stick to be used for corporal punishment.

Male teachers cannot whip female students.

All the details of the punishment -- name of pupil and teacher, nature of the offence and the date -- must be recorded in a register.

Childline Botswana, a non-governmental organisation, was registered in 1990 in response to an increasing number of child abuse cases.

It provides emergency services for all children in need; it helps parents or caregivers who are experiencing difficulties with their children; it helps adults who may have been abused themselves as children; and it educates the public on child abuse and children's rights and lobby and advocates for children rights.

However, BOPA set out on a five-day observation mission to three secondary schools and three primary ones in the Palapye and it appeared the provisions of the Education Act, pertaining to corporal punishment, are violated.

During the first half of June, teachers were seen standing by the school gates, canning late comers.

There was no register in sight. After caning, the students run to their classrooms, some visibly in unbearable pain as they limp away after receiving lashes on their buttocks.

Those who had it on their hands would scream and plead with the teachers to forgive them.

However, after failing to bend the teacher with their pleas, they will wail to classes, hanging their now numb hands in front of them.

To this, Kelaotswe said, his ministry has warned the schools against the practice.

"We have told them many times that lashing students in this manner is not allowed as they have to observe the conditions laid out in the act and every time education officers carry out school inspection they always demands to see that register," he said. -- BOPA

News Source: All news stories were supplied by the Botswana Press Agency (BOPA)

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