Tag Archives: violence against children

FACT CHECK: HAS CORPORAL PUNISHMENT REALLY BEEN ABOLISHED IN NIGERIA?

There is some news going round in Nigeria to the effect that corporal punishment has been finally abolished. Speaking to a Nigeria-based newspaper outfit (Premium Times), one Vice-Principal of an Abuja based private school (name withheld) said exactly: “Following the Act of the Federal Ministry of Education, there is no more corporal punishment in schools. It is only the head teacher who is permitted to punish any child indicted of a grievous offence. Teachers or any other person are not allowed to give corporal punishment to students.”[1]

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A critical analysis of the statement will reveal some inherent contradictions. First, assuming but not conceding that an Act was passed; how effective is an Act that purports to abolish corporal punishment but does not do so completely. Clearly, from the statement above, the power to punish using corporal punishment is still vested in the head teacher. Herein lies the loophole; the power to inflict corporal punishment when vested in anyone – is easily susceptible to abuse and can easily be misused by an ill-intentioned head teacher. Not to be forgotten is the fact that corporal punishment generally can negatively affect learning outcomes by reducing enthusiasm for learning and increasing dejection in studies.[2]

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Again, one wonders whether it is within the purview of the Federal Ministry of Education to enact an Act. The making of Laws and Acts are a function of the legislature, particularly the House of Assemblies at the state level and the National Assembly at the Federal level respectively. At best, the Federal Ministry of Education can issue a policy banning corporal punishment but this cannot be as effective as a law banning corporal punishment. If corporal punishment is to be abolished in Nigeria, the proper procedure is for all the states’ Houses of Assembly as well as the National Assembly to clearly enact a law abolishing the same. This no doubt, is the way to go in protecting the psychology of young Nigerians and reforming the approach to correction in our homes and educational institutions.

THE REALITY

The reality is that corporal punishment is still part and parcel of the Nigerian legal system. Both legislations and decisions of the courts still support this assertion. A case in point is, Section 55 (1) of the Nigerian Penal Code which clearly states thus:

“Nothing is an offence which does not amount to the infliction of …grievous hurt upon a person and which is done –

  • By a parent or guardian for the purpose of correcting his child or ward; that child or ward being under eighteen years of age; or
  • By a schoolmaster for the purpose of correcting a child under eighteen years of age entrusted to his charge
  • By a master for the purpose of correcting his servant or apprentice, the servant or apprentice being under eighteen years of age; or
  • By a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife such husband and wife being subject to any customary law in which the correction is recognized as lawful.”
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The above cited law has not been repealed and the major disadvantage is the tendency that the discipline it allows might be stretched too far. There is clearly no yardstick for determining which level of grievous hurt will amount to an issue as sensitive as corporal punishment. By failing to delimit clear boundaries, the said law fails to outline which level of corporal punishment is permissible and justifiable.

The posture of the Nigerian Supreme Court also seems to disfavor the protection of children from corporal punishment. Particularly, the Nigerian case of Ekeogu v Aliri[3] appears to have given an imprimatur to the above legislation that allows corporal punishment. The occurrence in the case was thatthe teacher had earlier ordered his pupils on the 2nd of December, 1985 to go outside to witness how a mob was dealing with a thief so that they could gain some lessons on how to behave appropriately. To punish their failure to return the classroom on time, the teacher beat each of the pupils including the pupil who lost her eye. While the trial court held that the act was a crime, on appeal to the Supreme Court however, the judgment of the trial court was reversed on the questionable basis that the teacher was simply acting in the position of her parents (i.e. in loco parentis) by trying to ensure that he maintained an orderly and disciplined classroom.

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The Court said exactly, “What happened in this case was nothing more than the appellant discharging his duty and it was only a sheer accident that the child was hit in the eye resulting in its damage. I cannot discern any criminal intention on the part of the teacher.”[4] The teacher escaped liability, but an irreparable damage had been caused to the life of a young girl for a reason as trivial as returning a few minutes to class. Sadly, the court Supreme chose to be deliberately oblivious of the attendant violation of rights that accompany corporal punishment.

One really wonders how appropriate the description of the event as “a sheer accident” is. The infliction of corporal punishment begins substantially in the mind and the thoughts and intentions therein are virtually impossible to know.   By its actions or inactions therefore, the apex court of Nigeria was by implication, ratifying the draconian act of corporal punishment.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Going forward, both the legislature and executive (law making through policy and law making respectively) ought to give full force to the protection of children from torture so ably espoused in section 34 of the Nigerian constitution. The said section states that “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly – (a) no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; (b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

Again, courts and Nigerian judges, in the spirit of judicial activism should be pro-active when interpreting the laws and they should do so in a manner that is favourable to the abolition of corporal punishment. Going forward, it will be helpful for Nigeria’s highest court to revisit its decision in Ekeogu v Aliri,[5] with a view to altering the posture it took. Essentially, in the march towards the abolition of corporal punishment, all hands must be on deck. Every institution must move from promises to practices, commitments to concrete projects and from mere intentions to implementation.

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                                                REFERENCES

Azeezat Adedigba, ‘Teachers, Parents react as Nigerian Schools Gradually Abandon Corporal Punishment’ Premium Times Newspapers  (February 23, 2020)

Russow J., Learner Discipline in South African Public Schools; A Qualitative Study, (Koers Publishers, 2003)

Thomas J. Baechle, ‘Corporal punishment in schools: An Infringement on Constitutional Freedoms’ (1971) Cleveland State Law Review

United Nations, ‘UN Chief Calls for Domestic Violence ‘Ceasefire’ Amid Horrifying Global Surge’; https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061052> accessed 16 September, 2021

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria

The Penal Code Act


[1] Azeezat Adedigba, ‘Teachers, Parents react as Nigerian Schools Gradually Abandon Corporal Punishment’ Premium Times Newspapers  (February 23, 2020)

[2] Russow J., Learner Discipline in South African Public Schools; A Qualitative Study, (Koers Publishers, 2003)

[3] lawcarenigeria.com/john-ekeogu-vs-elizabeth-aliri/

[4] supra

[5] lawcarenigeria.com/john-ekeogu-vs-elizabeth-aliri/

TEACHER BEATS YAHAYA NUHU ALIYU TO DEATH OVER FAILURE TO DO HOMEWORK

Mrs. Dorcas Gibson, a teacher at Federal Government College, Kwali reportedly beat a 13 year-old, J.S.S.2 boarding student for failure to do his homework. Incidentally, the victim of corporal punishment, Yahaya Nuhu Aliyu, Yahaya Nuhu Aliyu was the grandson to the late Aliyu Mohammed, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Prior to the teacher’s entry into the class, the deceased had initially gone to the school’s clinic to receive treatment but he could not be attended to on the basis that he had not eaten anything that day. The reason adduced by Yahaya Nuhu Aliyu for failing to do his assignment was that he was indisposed, yet, his teacher would not have his excuse, rather she initially asked the boy to remove weed as a punishment. After the pupil had observed this punishment, she consistently beat him on his head with the metal handle of a bucket until he slumped and died.[1]

The incident occurred during period eight on August 9, 2021. The school, where the incident occurred, Federal Government College, Kwali is located in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Narrating the incident, one of the classmates of Yahaya said, “During Period 8, Mrs. Gibson entered and requested for assignment submissions. Yahaya and I failed to submit and as a result she ordered us to take out weed. Yahaya had informed the teacher he was ill and didn’t do the assignment. Nevertheless, she ordered us to clear the weeds, after which we returned to class. His head was resting on the desk due to the illness but she severely beat him on the head with a metal bucket handle  until he passed out.”

After the teacher left the class, Yahaya Nuhu Aliyu put his head on the table and remained still. This attracted the attention of his colleagues who called for assistance from the school authorities. He was taken to Rema Clinic where he was confirmed dead. This sparked off reactions from his classmates who took to the school’s premises in protest. Although the school (Federal Government College, Kwali) initially denied responsibility, by insisting that Yahaya Nuhu Aliyu died of malaria, a meeting was convened on August 11 and 13 where the school owned up. The school also begged the parents of the late Yahaya Nuhu Aliyu to forgive and forget, insisting that fact finding would only lead to displeasure.

Reacting to the incident, spokesperson of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Goong, noted that the ministry had visited the parents of the victim of corporal punishment and had inaugurated a committee to investigate the alleged murder.[2] In a similar vein, Engineer, Musa Ibrahim, the National President of Federal Government Kwali Old Students Association (FEDGOKOSA) acknowledges the severity of the incident, noting further that it had the capacity to smear the good name and image of the school. He also promised to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that justice is done to all the parties concerned. In his words, “Since Sunday night up till this moment, it’s been calls, consultations, clarifications with different personalities ranging from the Father, Principal, deceased relatives and the list goes on, all these geared towards unraveling the fact on what caused the demise of our son, which has also smeared the integrity of our dear school… Be assured of NEC’s resolve to ensure that justice is done to our Son, his father and FGC Kwali that we rightly cherish.”[3] There has however been no publicized report from the Ministry of Education and the alumni association of the school.

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The incidence however calls for a revisiting of the posture of the Nigerian legal system to corporal punishment. Chapter 25 of the Nigerian Criminal Code provides thus:

            “A blow or other force, not in any case extending to a wound or grievous harm, may be justified for the purpose of correction as follows….a father or mother may correct his or her legitimate or illegitimate child, being under sixteen years of age, or any guardian or person acting as a guardian, his ward, being under sixteen years of age, for misconduct or disobedience to any lawful command….[and] may delegate to any person whom he or she entrusts permanently or temporarily with the governance or custody of his or her child or ward all his or her own authority for correction, including the power to determine in what cases correction ought to be inflicted; and such a delegation shall be presumed, except in so far as it may be expressly withheld, in the case of a schoolmaster or a person acting as a schoolmaster, in respect of a child or ward.”

This provision certainly gives impetus to caregivers and school teachers to inflict corporal punishment on children and there is a need for it to be expunged. This is because it is difficult to control and curtail the passion that comes with the infliction of harm on young children once the action of corporal punishment has been set in motion. In most cases, the damage done to young people as in the case of Nuhu Aliyu above is clearly disproportionate and irreparable. A clear abolition of corporal punishment is what is advocated for to further save innocent souls like Nuhu Aliyu. Doing this will shift Nigeria into the categories of countries who have fully protected children from corporal punishment which instills fear. Presently, only 8% of African children have been fully protected from corporal punishment.[4]

REFERENCES

Abass Latifat, “Teacher Beats Student to Death over Homework” blackboxnigeria.com/teacher-beats-student-to-death-over-homework accessed on September 18, 2021

Adekunle Dada, “Teacher Reportedly Beats Student to Death in Abuja” Within Nigeria News; www.withinnigerua.com/news/2021/08/16/teacher-reportedly-beats-student-to-death-in-/abuja/amp>accessed on 18 September 2021

Grace Udofia, “Teacher Beats 13-Year-Old Student to Death in Abuja”; http://www.the heritagetimes.com/teacher-beats-13-year-old-student-to-death-in-abuja/ accessed on September 18, 2021

Kess Ewubare, “FG Reacts to Alleged Beating of Student to Death in Abuja” Legit; legit.ng/1430161/-fg-reacts-to-alleged-beating-of-student-to-death-in-abuja.html> accessed on September 18, 2021

Sahara Reporters, New York, “13-Year-Old Abuja Schoolboy Dies After Flogging By Teacher” www.saharareporters.com/2021/08/17/13-year-old-abuja-schoolboy-dies-after-flogging-by-teacher> accessed on September 18, 2021


[1] Adekunle Dada, “Teacher Reportedly Beats Student to Death in Abuja” Within Nigeria News; www.withinnigerua.com/news/2021/08/16/teacher-reportedly-beats-student-to-death-in-/abuja/amp

[2] Kess Ewubare, “FG Reacts to Alleged Beating of Student to Death in Abuja” (August 19, 2021) Legit; legit.ng/1430161/-fg-reacts-to-alleged-beating-of-student-to-death-in-abuja.html

[3] Sahara Reporters, New York, “13-Year-Old Abuja Schoolboy Dies After Flogging By Teacher” (August 17, 2021) http://www.saharareporters.com/2021/08/17/13-year-old-abuja-schoolboy-dies-after-flogging-by-teacher

[4] Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children (October 2015); “Prohibiting all Corporal Punishment of Children in Africa: Progress and Delay; www.endcorporalpunishment.org page 8


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GUESS WHY I WAS SLAPPED

I got into Junior Secondary School with so much excitement because I wanted to enjoy teenage age meeting new people outside my neighborhood, interact with children from various social and economic background, live away from home and test the strength of self-dependency at an early age and think to start a business as I come from background with lots of Medium scale entrepreneurs. My expectations on education, communication and learning were high and I could not wait for my first day as a junior secondary student in a boarding school.

I was enrolled in one of the best secondary schools in Lagos, Nigeria and the sad reality of school appraisals in Nigeria is limited to their educational strength based on teaching methods and academic performance in comparison with other schools. Such methods are not constructively appraised on the benefit on mental, intellectual and physical wellbeing of the child. My case was no different as I was a exhibit for testing poor disciplinary methods on children. My parents identified the good academic qualities of this school and once all admission requirement were settled, I became a proud student of Queens College in Lagos Nigeria and lived in school (i.e. the boarding house system that put high responsibility on the school management to cater for the day-to-day wellbeing of students).

The proclivities in this system of child discipline in Nigeria increases the chances and sustainability of corporal punishment based on student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships as a culture of brutality to define a reputation of “seniority” and dominance within the student community is synonymous to an uncivilized people with intentions to maim and demoralize their peers. When a junior student is a victim of corporal punishment from student of teacher for 4-5 years and sees how it gives a pseudo status of respect, they are very likely to be conditioned to apply such means in defining their roles and status in the student community when they become senior students.

I became a boarding student due to the distance of my school from home. It was a long distance to cover even by car and the traffic in Lagos would double, if not triple the time required to arrive early at school each day. Like I mentioned, the boarding system relinquishes certain responsibilities from the parents to the school management on behalf of their children and this was one of many responsibilities the school would take up that would be less burdensome on my parents and I. The idea of independence was critical to my parents and they wanted to build me up from a young age to be self-reliant and depend less on them for small issues I could manage especially interpersonal relationship and making small decision.

This is a good decision every parent will want for their children and safe to say they wanted a child, regardless of her gender that remains undermined both in terms of equity and equality in Nigeria, to be solid in intellectually and courageous. Though the rules and regulations were alien, I had to live within them as I was excited of my new milestone. Some of the rules were very unimaginable and monstrous and looking back at how they were developed, reviewed and agreed in managing child educational and behavioral development, i really wonder what the definition of child safety and child rights is in Nigeria (I will not dwell on that in this post).

FOOD! FOOD!! FOOD!!! was the reason my house mistress slapped me. Funny but that was why I was slapped, and I will go into a bit of details on it. On this particular day, I went to my guardian’s house receive a call from my parent who had not seen me for some time and as their only child, I think their concerns to speak to me over the phone was valid. After the call, in a show of kind gesture, my guardian gave me food to eat and I ate with so much happiness (considering the quantity and quality (nutritional value) of the food compared to the rations we got from the dining hall, every student would eat her food. I might have been wrong or right to have eaten at my guardians’ house but I’m not too sure a student of a boarding school will blame me for wanting good food.

Anyways, we had a dormitory captain who gave report to the house mistress about certain activities. She reported to the house mistress stating I sometimes ate at my guardians’ and not from the dining hall. Looking back, I can only say she was jealous how my guardian treated me especially with good food. One day, while eating at my guardians’, my house mistress showed up to “discipline me”. I was very surprised and knew somebody gave me up (the snitching systems to attract favor). My house mistress asked what I was doing at my guardians’ place and I replied, “I came to eat dinner”. Her response was “you even have the gut to talk”. At that point, I became very scared and started shivering. She asked me the question again and after responding the same way, she slapped me. I burst into tears and tried to inquire the reason she slapped me, her response to my question was several wipes on my back and legs with a cane she was holding.

At that point my guardian rushed outside to manage the situation and stop her from flogging me. This made them get at each other, at least in words and I felt really sad and because I was slapped and flogged for wanting good food and putting my guardian in a bad situation because I had no idea the implication with the school authority. The fact that food, a core need of a child can be responding in a hostile manner makes me think deeply about children that live without food and how they are treated when they reach out to people that can help or how people that help are perceived by the society. The takeaway for me was that a gap within the social welfare programme of the school was identified and as a school responsible for children wellbeing including quality food, addressing the issue was core not how the student responded to her appetite especially when she did not steal or bully another student for their meal.

My house mistress reported the case to the Vice Principal, which attracted a warning letter from the school after inviting my parents to discuss the matter. The decision from the school management supported the use of violence through corporal punishment meted on me. The mental and physical effect left traumatized as I felt most vulnerable when my parents went home. I did not feel safe and that was not a concern of the school. The direct effect this had on me was I couldn’t speak for myself and always resorted to the help if my guardian, eliminating the goal of developing self-confidence and able to make small decisions on my life. I became more dependent and asking myself questions as “Did she really have to hit me?”, “Couldn’t she have just reported me to the management, if she felt I was wrong or tell me why I was expected to eat from the school dining hall?”.

Guess what, I did not stop going to have those delicious meals at my guardians’ despite the violence and I began taken my dormitory captain along after she apologized to me, we became friends afterwards. My enthusiasm against corporal punishment is that it does not solve the root problem of any poor behavior a child display. It only helps the child grow to understand that (s)he can only manage such root problems by herself/himself and those that do not accept her/his methods of managing root problems will react violently not because they are trying to lead acceptable socio-cultural behaviors but because they lack capacity of an effective way to salvage the problem bedeviling the child and this leads me to make my final comment on this post on corporal punishment. To any teachers, house mistresses, house masters, guardians and parents, the violence you preach is not the solution to the problem.

I was treated poorly because of food but The death of a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Abuja (Keren Akpagher) would have had worse experience. Kindly share your thoughts about this and more if you have similar experience.

TO PARENTS: TEACH WITHOUT VIOLENCE

It is funny how adults feel offended or upset when their fellow adult slaps them but they do not think about how a child feels when they slap them. YES, you are older than the child, YES, that is your child or YES, you are trying to correct the child or teach the child. These are some justifications for hitting a child but it is not justified when your fellow colleague or friend slaps you because they are correcting you.

The context of teaching a child without violence such as corporal punishment has been debatable over the years. Protagonists and Antagonists of Corporal punishment also known as Physical punishment agree to the same context that corporal punishment is to inflict pain on a child to curb a child’s behavior. However, in the argument of the Antagonists, the use of corporal punishment encourages a violent society by teaching us that the means of teaching, learning, correcting behavior is not effective without violence, hence, leading to an increase in aggressive people. In addition, there are several negative factors of the use of violence (corporal punishment) such as the mental health of the child and physical injuries which has led to the death of some children.

Whist I was (still) undergoing my doctoral research, I have understood that the term “violence” is very broad and some persons do not consider “corporal punishment” as a form of violence. Examples of violence against children are child slavery, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, negligence, violent psychological discipline, physical abuse (corporal punishment and many more. These examples are confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and some other international organization reports that are aimed at protecting or safeguarding children. At what point do we draw a line between the use of physical punishment and the excessive use of physical punishment? Some proponents have argued that the administration of corporal punishment (physical punishment) should be limited to certain numbers of strokes or flogging and on a particular part of a child’s body, that will not cause injuries or harm to a child.

Back in secondary school, I remember how the teachers whip us (the students) and this did not have a positive impact as we adapted to the violence and did not learn to stop the bad behavior, rather we found alternatives to avoid getting caught. A lot of students especially the senior students exhibited this act on the junior students and even their mates. This increased the rate of violence and aggression amongst friends, siblings and colleagues.

I strongly advice that the use of violence to discipline a child is not the best and it has been proven from several medical, psychological and social research.

Feel free to drop your opinion about the use of violence (corporal punishment) to discipline a child.