Corporal punishment, to begin with, is any punishment in which physical force is used and is meant to produce some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.” In Kenya, corporal punishment has long been used as a disciplinary method in schools. This strategy is commonly used by teachers to retain respect for authority, compliance, and self-discipline. Although corporal punishment has been prohibited in Kenya since 2001 under the Children Act, students are nevertheless being beaten by instructors on a regular basis, resulting in significant injuries and, in some cases, death. A study conducted by Peter Newell (2011), has revealed that 97 per cent of boys and 83 per cent of girls had undergone “mild” corporal punishment. In a concrete example, four years ago, a 15-year-old Kenyan girl named Ebbie Samuels was killed by her teacher. Shockingly, instead of helping, the school actively worked to conceal the incident of homicide. Thus, despite their young age and inability to protect themselves, children are individuals who have an intrinsic right to be free from all forms of violence. Children, like adults, have equal rights and obligations and should be treated as such. If an adult were to harm another adult, legal consequences would follow, and the same principle should apply when addressing incidents involving children.
Corporal punishment has been prohibited for almost 22 years, yet why does it still occur? This question has multiple possible responses. Firstly, children’s lack of awareness. Because corporal punishment happens at school, at home, and even in the community, it is difficult for a child to see that it is wrong. Expressing such experiences can be particularly challenging for young individuals, as others may doubt their accounts or they may be apprehensive about potential adverse outcomes. Secondly, it is a matter of implementing the law and putting measures in place. Kenya passed the legislation, but the Ministry of Education and schools continue to struggle with the use of corporal punishment. This can be the result of insufficient tools and systems to make sure schools follow the prohibition and implement the necessary procedures. Finally, attitudes and conventions within a culture. Certain cultures acknowledge the use of corporal punishment as a customary means of instilling and upholding order. According to a 2019 Kenyan study, 35% of women and 48% of men said that parents must discipline their children physically to raise them. Hence, cultural beliefs continue to wield significant influence in the contemporary world.
Corporal punishment is associated with a range of long-term impacts. Firstly, children exposed to such forms of punishment face the potential development of mental health issues in adulthood, including heightened risks of depression, dissatisfaction, and anxiety. Additionally, it may cause a youngster to feel less good about themselves and believe they are terrible, undeserving, or deserving of punishment. Secondly, corporal punishment can lead to criminality. Given its history of use as a disciplinary tactic, it could help normalise violent reactions to disagreement. According to research by Fergusson & Lynskey (1997), children in New Zealand who received more physical punishment as youngsters were more likely to go on to try suicide, acquire a mental illness, get addicted to alcohol or drugs, or commit a crime. Thirdly, it may raise the likelihood that they may use physical punishment on their own children in the future and react aggressively and challengingly to both family members and peers but not least, it can tragically result in deadly outcomes, causing a circle of suffering and sorrow that goes beyond the immediate social and psychological effects.
There has been continuous discussion and work to address the issue of physical punishment in schools and other settings in many nations, including Kenya. Advocacy groups and school authorities frequently strive to safeguard children’s rights and advance non-violent discipline techniques. In my opinion, a reporting system ought to be established, providing kids with an understanding of their rights and obligations and allowing them to report any incidents that appear unsuitable. Assuring children’s well-being and averting the long-term consequences of harmful practices, also creates a vital route for intervention and gives them a sense of agency and protection. They can accomplish this by starting a community-wide campaign to raise children’s awareness so they can overcome the most difficult obstacles.
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