A teacher is facing possible assault charges after beating a 12-year-old student who failed to show up a cleaning day (set setal) at the school.
The boy (name withheld) continued to be in pain days after the punishment was meted on him, according to his father, The Standard Newspaper reported.
“I went home to find my son crying continuously and I tried to sooth him down with word of encouragement to forgo the incident. However soon after, it became apparent that he was feeling very serious pain from the beating,” the father said.
The Standard did not mention the name of the school and our questions to the police are yet to be responded to but school authorities did not take any measures to address the father’s complaint, forcing him to report the matter to the police.
The distressed father said school authorities ‘did not even bother to check on his son’s condition.’
Corporal punishment has been used for decades in The Gambia’s education system as a way to discipline students, though The Gambia is party to the UN convention on the rights of the child. The country has placed some laws restricting the use of corporal punishment but is has not been banned completely and restrictions remain unenforced.
“The Education Act does not prohibit corporal punishment although it stipulates conditions for it. The Children’s Act also does not expressly prohibit it in schools and homes,” said Njundu Drammeh of Child Protection Alliance, a coalition of local and international agencies working to protect children from abuse and exploitation in The Gambia.
Corporal punishment is a breach of a person’s fundamental right to respect for human dignity and physical integrity under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) reaffirms the child’s entitlement to human rights, whom “by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection” as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
CPA has started a campaign for legal reform in this area and had workshops with the media, Civil Society Organizations and the National Assembly Select Committee on women, children and refugees.
The organization is set to have the issue of corporal punishment in schools addressed at the Conference of School Principals.
“People don’t understand the difference between punishment and discipline and they blame us for all the ills in the schools, including the poor performance of children in schools. Nonetheless, we won’t relent,” Drammeh said.
The father of the 12-year-old boy hopes the prosecution of the teacher will serve as a lesson and a deterrent to others who abuse children.
At least 88 percent of students in The Gambia are beaten by their teachers and 59.9 percent are beaten with a cane. The percentage of students beaten in the Greater Banjul Area is the lowest in the country at 3.8 percent.