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School CP - March 2003

Africa News Service, 28 March 2003

School Students Protest in Inhambane

Maputo, Mar 28, 2003 (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- Hundreds of school students demonstrated in the streets of the southern Mozambican city of Inhambane on Thursday, in protest against the detention of a teacher, reports Friday's issue of the independent newsheet "Mediafax". The pupils, from two primary schools and one secondary school protested for three hours along the main avenue in Inhambane, blocking the traffic, and demanding the release of the jailed teacher, Jacinto Bernardo.

The demonstration only broke up when the police intervened and fired shots into the air. The pupils then concentrated, in a more orderly fashion, in front of the Inhambane Provincial Court, where they continued to demand that Bernardo be set free.

Bernardo was detained over a week ago because he used corporal punishment against a pupil, 13 year old Luis Mauricio, who happens to be a nephew of the provincial governor, Aires Aly.

Bernardo is accused of hitting the pupil on the palm of the hand with a ruler.

The paper's sources describe Luis Mauricio as "excessively indisciplined in the classroom". He is said to do as he pleases, boasting of his status as the governor's cousin.

One source said "What the teacher did was to take a ruler to the hands of several pupils, including the governor's nephew, for manifest bad behaviour. The pupils were making a deafening row in the classroom, disturbing school activities".

After his punishment, Mauricio left the classroom and went straight home to tell his relatives what had happened. The governor's wife, Joana Mauricio, went to the school to lodge a protest.

But she also took the matter to the police, who immediately detained Bernardo, on a charge of assault.

When "Mediafax" contacted Aires Aly, he said he regarded the case as perfectly normal, and it was being dealt with by the authorities "like any other case".

"It's not because he's my nephew", the governor stressed.

"The teacher's attitude must be opposed, because he's not setting a good example for us, the parents. The teacher erred. He should not have acted as he did, hitting the boy to the point of damaging his fingers. In any case, I think the matter has been handed over to the appropriate institutions".

According to a report on the case in the weekly paper "Zambeze", Mauricio was taken to hospital, and has hand was put in plaster.

The head of public relations in the Inhambane provincial police command, Fortunato Maque, defended the arrest of Bernardo.

"There's no rule in education that says a teacher must hit his pupils", he declared. "Education is not the same as beating a pupil, beating him until his finger is dislocated. That's assault, and it's a crime" .

Maque said Joana Mauricio had lodged a complaint with the police command - but she had done so, not as the governor's wife, but as a citizen who felt offended at what had happened.

A magistrate has set bail for Bernardo at three million meticais (about 120 US dollars), but given the miserably low wages of teachers, he is finding it difficult to raise the money.

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Copyright Colin Farrell 2003
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