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School CP - January 2005

Corpun file 15000

East African Standard, Nairobi, 20 January 2005


Stuffed bottom

When I was in Form One 10 years ago, I used to hear my buddies describe how painful our headie's "six strokes of the cane" were. Then one day I found myself waiting outside his office for my turn to receive my "six" and decided to stuff leaves from a flower in my shorts to protect my "thuthas".

When the first stroke landed, there was a cracking sound from my bottom and the headie checked me out. My quick mouth offered an explanation. I said I had a running stomach and the leaves were supposed to help me contain it. I thought he had let it go until he told a whole P.T.A. meeting what I had done. To make matters worse, he made me "explain" how I came up with the idea. Everyone had a good laugh and I have never forgiven him for that. I have never forgiven myself either.

Cyro, University of Nairobi

Copyright MMIV. The Standard Group I & M Building, Kenyatta Avenue, P.O Box 30080, 00100 GPO, Nairobi-Kenya.

Corpun file 15010

The Daily Nation, Nairobi, 24 January 205

Legal Week

The Limits of Corporal Punishment

By Michael M Murungi, Advocate

"If in moulding the youth of this nation, the teacher thought that he had the carte blanche to indiscriminately administer corporal punishment including assaulting his pupils, then he was mistaken."

Henry Nyota Karanja was a teacher at Muruaki Primary School, Nyandarua District.

On January 25, 2001, he administered corporal punishment in the form of lashes of the cane on one of his students, Master Wilfred Gichia Nganga aged 11 years.

Karanja was later to find himself before the Naivasha Senior Principal Magistrate charged with the offence of causing grievous bodily harm contrary to section 234 of the Penal Code Chapter 63 of the Laws of Kenya.

Karanja pleaded not guilty to the charge and the case proceeded to a full trial. Wilfred told the court on January 24, 2001 he had gone to school as usual and 'Mr Karanja', as the pupils reverently addressed him, administered a mathematics test to his Standard Six class.

After marking the exam, Karanja called out the pupils who had failed to correctly answer some of the questions and administered corporal punishment on them.

On this occasion, Wilfred suffered injuries on his legs, which caused soreness and swelling.

The following day, Karanja was to administer yet another round of corporal punishment on the pupils. When it was Wilfred's turn to suffer the cane, he requested Karanja to whip him on the hands because his legs were hurting.

Karanja neither heeded this request nor took it kindly. He violently pushed Wilfred towards a table and continued caning on his buttocks.

This time, Wilfred was to suffer an even more serious injury. The violent shove had driven his private parts into the corner of the classroom table, seriously injuring one of his testicles.

He was later to undergo a surgical removal of the injured testicle after which he was to lay in hospital for 10 days while recuperating.

Wilfred's evidence was supported by the testimony of his mother and one of his classmates.

A clinical officer also gave evidence and produced a P3 Form describing the injury. The officer assessed the degree of injury as grievous harm.

When Karanja was put on his defence, he admitted that he had 'disciplined' Wilfred along with other pupils by lashing them twice on the legs. He, however, denied that he had pushed Wilfred to a table and he did not know he had come by his testicular injury.

He ventured to state that Wilfred might well have suffered his injuries elsewhere. Karanja called two of his other pupils to testify in his defence.

The two, both aged 12 years, told the court that they too had been lashed on the legs by Karanja but they did not see Wilfred being assaulted on his private parts or being pushed to a table by Karanja.

The trial court did not view Karanja's evidence with much favour. He was convicted and sentenced to a fine of Sh80,000 or two years imprisonment if he failed to pay the fine.

Karanja was not satisfied with the Magistrate's decision and he filed an appeal against it in the High Court in Nakuru.

His grounds of appeal were that the evidence adduced in the trial Court was not sufficient to warrant his conviction and that the sentence imposed on him was harsh and oppressive.

A court hearing a first appeal is mandated by law to re-evaluate and re-assess the evidence and to reach its own independent conclusion on whether to uphold the accused person's conviction or not.

The appeal was heard by the learned Justice Luka Kimaru, who upon re-evaluating the evidence and considering Karanja's grounds of appeal came to the following conclusions: It was clear that Karanja had set upon a course of action whose ultimate result was the injury to Wilfred. His method of teaching mathematics was sadistic.

He appeared to derive joy from inflicting pain on his pupils in the name of 'disciplining' them. He appeared to have formed a habit of assaulting his pupils if they failed his tests.

On the day in question, he had gone into a frenzy when he thought that Wilfred was resisting punishment.

He violently pushed him onto a table whose edge came into contact with his testicle, causing him grievous harm and he continued to administer the corporal punishment on him.

Justice Kimaru spared a compassionate thought for Karanja, describing his injuries as resulting in the loss of 'an important symbol of his manhood' and perhaps even his ability to sire children in future.

The High Court was therefore satisfied that the charge of grievous harm had been proved beyond any reasonable doubt and the trial magistrate was correct in disregarding Karanja's defence.

In moulding the youth of this nation, the Court stated, Karanja was not to indiscriminately administer corporal punishment and assault his pupils.

In response to submissions made on Karanja's behalf that the trial court had subjected him to double jeopardy by imposing the harsh sentence when he had also been terminated from his employment, Justice Kimaru remarked that while it may appear that he was being punished twice for the same incident, his relationship with his employer was not a matter with which the courts were concerned.

In fact, in his own assessment, the Judge was of the opinion that the sentence imposed on Karanja was lenient in the circumstances.

The appeal was therefore found not to have merit and it was dismissed.

Copyright 2005 The Nation. All rights reserved.

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