Parents and educationists say the recent ban on corporal punishment exposes children to unbecoming behaviour as they ride on the legal cover.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Recently, High Court judge, Justice Esther Muremba ruled that it was unconstitutional, and therefore illegal, to use corporal punishment on children. She was making reference to a case of a 15-year-old boy who had been found guilty of sexually molesting a 14-year-old female neighbour and had been sentenced to canning.
Justice Muremba ruled that the new constitution had no room for the “cruel” act which has been described by international humanitarian organisations as barbaric and ancient.
But educationists and some parents feel that the law took away from them the ability to shape their children into good responsible citizens.
“This is so wrong. Even the Bible says ‘spare the rod and you spoil the child’,” said Belinda Musa from Belvedere.
Although all of her children are grown up, Musa says she always used the rod if it was necessary and she is quite happy with what became of her children.
“Dialogue is for a certain age group but when they are too young the rod will fix it and as they grow up they will learn the dos and don’ts,” she said.
A vendor along Seke Road in Harare said if teachers could no longer discipline children, performance grades would slump.
“Our children need that kind of correction and if teachers are not permitted to use a bit of force, the children will not work hard,” she said.
An exploratory study of corporal punishment by Teachers in Zimbabwean Schools titled Issues and Challenges and written by Almon Shumba, Amasa Philip Ndofirepi, and Martin Musengi, says teachers play an important role as educators and disciplinarians.
“To assume their responsibilities, teachers sometimes resort to the use of physical punishment,” the authors observed.
This however is in sharp contrast with international laws on child protection, posing a great challenge to teachers.
Legal expert Alex Magaisa said Zimbabwe was signatory to most of the international laws that do not allow corporal punishment.
“In the old constitution corporal punishment was allowed as an exception but did not have the same protection that is offered by the new provision in the new constitution which is now an absolute right,” he said.
Teachers’ unions are however divided on the ruling with some advocating for the ban while others want it rescinded.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said corporal punishment perpetuated a culture of violence.
He called on teachers to instead resort to alternative disciplinary measures which were not degrading.
However, the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has called for the revoking of the law.
In a petition to President Robert Mugabe, PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe charged that “outright removal of corporal punishment from schools will definitely turn them into jungles”.
“We don’t support the battering of learners but we’re saying keeping corporal punishment hanging in schools, at times without even applying it, has helped to maintain some measure of discipline,” part of the letter read.
The use of physical punishment to chastise wayward children is mostly used by those parents who subscribed to the notion that the act would mould the young men and women into better citizens.
Section 53 of the constitution however states that, “no person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Section 86 (3)(c) states that no law may limit the following rights enshrined in this chapter and no person may violate them, the right not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.