Kenyan civil society groups Thursday termed as retrogressive a fresh attempt to re-introduce caning in schools to curb riots in schools, warning they would sue the government for violating the constitution and child rights.
The civil society groups, reacting to a statement by Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, who had claimed the cabinet would soon lift the ban on caning to enable teachers to deal effectively with undisciplined students, said such steps would violate the law.
Kenyan secondary schools have erupted into a series of riots, affecting hundreds of schools across the country’s 18,000 secondary schools.
The country’s education authorities have attributed the riots and indiscriminate burning of schools to this year’s violence.
Kenyan officials said the school riots had been fuelled by a culture of violent attacks witnessed during the December 2007-March 2008 period when the country plunged into political anarchy after disputed presidential election results.
Education Ministry Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi said earlier that the introduction of free schooling early this year was a major contributing factor to the school riots.
Civil society organisations, meeting in Nairobi Thursday, said the ban on corporal punishment in schools was effected as a result of its detrimental effects on children.
“If the ban on caning is lifted, it is not only the government that would be viewed as retrogressive, even the parents will feel guilty,” said Wambui Njuguna, ANPPCAN’s Director of Programmes at the organisation’s headquarters in Nairobi.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has previously blamed the rising cases of school riots on the laxity of parents to effectively discipline their children at home, leading to indiscipline in schools, which he blames on the destruction of key infrastructure.
Kenyan education ministry officials argue the ban on canning in schools could easily be lifted by a government directive authorising teachers to apply the cane.
Kenya effectively banned caning in schools after the signing of a government legal notice, directing the teachers to stop the act.
However, teachers have never stopped caning as a method to discipline the students though it was supposed to stop about a decade ago, following the enactment of the Children Act, which domesticated several international treaties.
The child rights advocates said the government would be violating the constitution if it lifted the ban and warned that this would be challenged in a court of law. Panapress .