Zim divided over corporal punishment ban

via Zim divided over corporal punishment ban – DailyNews Live 21 January 2015

HARARE – Zimbabwe is divided over a new law banning corporal punishment, even in schools.

Section 53 of the Zimbabwe Constitution abolishes corporal punishment, and guarantees the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“No law may permit the right to be tortured or subjected to cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the new charter says.

Chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe has already sent a circular to all magistrates to take note of this new provision while sentencing juvenile offenders in the courts.

Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, said eradicating such punishment in Zimbabwean society demands that government first take deliberate legal steps which guarantee enforcement of the order.

“The big problem in Zimbabwe is that of attitude where the practice of corporal punishment is widely condoned by both teachers and parents who believe that beating children is a good way to instil discipline,”  Mavhinga said.

“Also, the government of Zimbabwe has not taken concrete steps to show that it condemns torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in that it has not criminalised torture and has not yet ratified the Convention Against Torture.”

Many parents and educationists, because of culture and religion, argue that flogging a child is the most effective way of infusing good behaviour.

Wilson Makanyaire, president of the Professional Education Union of Zimbabwe, said prohibiting lashing was not commendable.

“Of course, a child should not be flogged every time,” Makanyaire said.

“As a parent, I say, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ As teachers, we have the loco-parentis role, so we are supposed to whip here and there, especially headmasters.”

Responding to a question on how sometimes children tend to enjoy other forms of punishments which as long as it takes them out of class, he said, “Know the child, if it is break or lunch he or she wants the most, make them do their punishment that time”.

Sifiso Ndlovu of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association said corporal punishment inculcated a culture of violence, and said teachers must use “progressive disciplinary methods.”

“Teachers need to study the psychological and sociological dimension of a child so that they come up with alternative disciplinary measures,” Ndlovu said.

“Resources should be mobilised for say teacher retraining because still discipline is needed for learning to take place.”

Sinikiwe Hlanganiso, a mother of two, said the development is sad and spells doom for Zimbabwe’s future generations.

“It is a bad decision for our children’s future,” she said.

“We are Africans, not Americans. What works in America does not necessarily work in Zimbabwe.”

Initially, only school heads and courts could institute the punishment on errant children, but the new Constitution prohibits such punishment in its totality by anyone, including parents.