Sir Frank Peters
September 11, 2016: Namibia has become the latest country to follow in the footsteps of Bangladesh and protect its children from shameful child abuse, more commonly known as corporal punishment.
In a landmark decision this week Namibian High Court judge Elton Hoff ruled that physical force of any kind to discipline pupils was not acceptable in both government and private schools and that perpetrators would be severely punished.
Corporal punishment had been outlawed by Namibia in government and private schools by the Education Acts of 1991 and 2001, but private schools viewed themselves to be exempt.
Judge Hoff reasoned that interpreting the abolition of corporal punishment laws to apply only to teachers employed by the government would be an absurdity in that children enrolled at state schools would be protected against invasive punishment, yet those enrolled at private schools would not.
The learned judge said that no amount of consent from parents or from a pupil at a school himself could nullify or invalidate the prohibition of corporal punishment.
Judge Hoff indicated that he supported a statement made in a judgement of South Africa's Constitutional Court on corporal punishment in 2000, when a judge of that court stated that South Africa's parliament wished to make a radical break with an authoritarian past when it decided to outlaw physical beatings in that country's schools.
The government consciously introduced new principles of learning to resolve learning problems through reason rather than force, the judge said.
“The outlawing of physical punishment in the school accordingly represented more than a pragmatic attempt to deal with disciplinary problems in a new way,” Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs said. “It had a principled and symbolic function, manifestly intended to promote respect for the dignity and physical and emotional integrity of all children.”
In 2011 Justice Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed the damaging and ineffective practice of corporal punishment in schools and madrasas throughout Bangladesh, declaring it to be “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.
While much progress has been made in Bangladesh since 2011, the cruel torture of children in schools still continue here and elsewhere as evidenced last month by the suicide of class nine pupil N. Babu (14) of Periyar Nagar, Vadavalli. A ‘teacher’ beat Babu so brutally that it drove him to despair and when his plaintive cries for help went unheard, he gave up all hope and decided to end his misery and young life.
While corporal punishment exists in schools, madrasahs, and homes, one can only hazard a guess at how many more children will be damaged, but indisputably they will.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a respected foreign non-political friend of Bangladesh. Three Bangladeshi babies have been named ‘Frank Peters’ in his honour.