Parents used to send their children to school not only to learn about their study materials, but also to learn good discipline. Now there are calls in many parts of Africa to ban corporal punishment because some say it is child abuse and violates the UN Convention on Children’s Rights. Still others say the practice is good because it helps children learn that there are consequences for bad behavior. Nsamara Dabo is senior program officer for the Child Protection Alliance of the Gambia (CPA). His organization recently conducted a study looking at the issue of corporal punishment in the Gambia in both the community and the schools.
From Banjul, Dabo told English to Africa reporter James Butty the study found that corporal punishment is widely practiced in the Gambia. “We found out that generally corporal punishment is being practiced in the Gambia, and there is a high number of people accepting the fact that it is a good method of disciplining students.” Dabo says the CPA study also found that majority of students are not in support of corporal punishment because they feel that it has a negative impact on their education and their health. “As some may even tell us through a focus group discussion, that some of their colleagues had to run out of school as a result of some of them being subjected to certain types of punishment by their teachers.” Dabo says the study found that many teachers are of the belief that corporal punishment is part of their role to guide students on the path of education. “Many of them are totally in support of the fact because they think that it is the method that they can use to put students through for them to be able to acquire their education.”
Dabo says the CPA considers corporal punishment a violation of the rights of children. “We have to understand that children are human beings and once you subject them to certain kind of punishment, it hampers their growth, development and survival and this a basic principle of the United Nations convention and African charter which most African countries have signed and ratified.” Mr. Dabo says the CPA teaches teachers to use alternative methods such as dialogue as a way of disciplining their students.