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Educational experts argue that the long-term costs of corporal punishment outweigh any short-term benefit that might be gained by its application. Although the application of corporal punishment may take less than a minute, its effects may last for years, and the family, the local community, and society at large pay the price for teachers' actions.

Beatings and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatments affect both the physical well being and the psyche of those who are punished. It makes a lasting impression on the minds of all children who witness corporal punishment in the classroom, and may be a detriment to their relationships with teachers, parents, and other authority figures. This is a message that boys and girls internalize and carry with them throughout their lives.

Psychological Effects on Children

Corporal punishment and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatments can have serious psychological effects on students who are victims and witnesses of physical discipline. According to one author on the subject, "experts have found that corporal punishment may produce in children neurotic reactions such as depression, withdrawal, anxiety, tension, and in older children, substance abuse, interference with school work, and precocious sexual behavior."20

According to many experts in the field, these psychological conditions arise out of children's inability to cope fully with the emotions they feel when punished in this manner. Children feel humiliated and degraded;21 they become angry and resentful towards those who punish them.22 There is no socially acceptable manner for them to express their feelings. If they act out their frustrations, they will be further punished.23 At home, they may find little consolation or support, if parents support teachers' actions, even when unjust. Psychologist Alice Miller has stated that "[i]f there is absolutely no possibility of reacting appropriately to hurt, humiliation, and coercion, then these experiences cannot be integrated into the personality; the feelings they evoke are repressed, and the need to articulate them remains unsatisfied, without any hope of being fulfilled . . . ."24 The forbidden and repressed anger can be manifested as hatred toward self or others.

One manifestation of the repression of this anger described by experts includes bullying others. Some psychological and educational research indicates that children who are punished physically themselves are more likely to bully their peers. "Corporal punishment may cause children to exhibit increased physical aggressiveness. . . . Coupling aggressiveness with lack of empathy creates a propensity to hurt others without compunction."25 Hitting children may send the message that hurting others is acceptable behavior.

Some Kenyan educators and children's right activists agree that the imposition of corporal punishment promotes bullying. Geoffrey W. Griffin, the head of the elite Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi, told us that excessive corporal punishment leads to more violence: "It's fairly true, one thing leads to another; show me a school that has excessive corporal punishment and I'll show you a school that has bullying."26 Joyce Umbima, chairperson of the Kenya Alliance for the Advancement of the Rights of the Child, said that when children act out what takes place in school, the child "teacher" beats the "pupils." "I observe children playing games like teacher-student, and I wonder what their concept of teaching is," said Ms. Umbima. "They are socialized to think that [hitting] is what a teacher does."27

The negative effects of corporal punishment reverberate throughout a society. "Such childhood anger is also thought to contribute to adult aggressiveness, authoritarianism, and lack of empathy, conditions in which repressedanger is acted out at the expense of others. Not uncommonly these others are the adult's own children, thereby perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of childhood trauma and adult neurosis or psychosis."28

Kenyan children we interviewed affirmed that they perceive corporal punishment as humiliating, painful, frightening, and anger-inspiring:

· Harold D., who dropped out of a secondary school located in a Nyanza Province city last year after refusing to accept corporal punishment, told us that "It is more bearable in the lower classes when you are still young and your heart is small. You can just go back to school and agree. You can bear it if it's not too much or too hard. It hurts and causes pain. But when you're older, like me, it does not help. You are already grown up and can understand things-there is no need to cane older students. It didn't make me do right. It just made me to hate the teacher, and the prefect, and feel angry and embarrassed-the other students laugh at you when you are being caned.29

· Fifteen-year-old Jennifer D. from Coast Province told us, "caning should be stopped, because most of the children do not like it; we are afraid of it, and it hurts."30

· A schoolboy at an urban secondary school in Central Province said that caning "contributed a lot to students becoming rebellious. That anger makes you rebellious, to want to revenge."31

Children also told Human Rights Watch that in their view, the imposition of corporal punishment is frequently unjust. Seventeen-year-old Richard O. told us that corporal punishment is "unreasonable," because "you are caned for many things that are very trivial."32 Ryan G. told us, "most of my punishments have been unfair, for I was beaten when I was not misbehaving. You are never given time to explain. You are just beaten."33

Children unhappy about corporal punishment find themselves at odds with both teachers and parents, who insist that corporal punishment is for their own good, and necessary to maintain "proper discipline" in schools. Headteachers and teachers often believe strongly in the value of corporal punishment: "Without caning the school would not run smoothly," a rural primary school headteacher told us, and added that "to use other forms of discipline would require more time, and time is not enough."34 A similar sentiment was voiced by a secondary school headteacher, who claimed that "Corporal punishment is very needed, as a deterrent. I'm old school. If we didn't have it, the students would shoot us!"35

Some school officials readily endorsed the idea that fear is what makes corporal punishment effective. A Naivasha primary school teacher told us that "if children are not punished they won't fear the teacher and won't beserious about being in school. Discipline helps them learn."36 "Children don't like to come to school," John M. Mburu, deputy head master at Mirera Primary School, explained to Human Rights Watch. "You need to put fear into them to discipline them to learn. [Using alternatives to corporal punishment] would only make children happy, and they wouldn't learn from that."37

Many children told us that their parents generally share such attitudes. A fifteen-year-old Standard Eight pupil at a rural primary school in Coast Province said that she and her classmates tell their parents when the teacher is being unfair, but that the parents will not do anything about it. "The parents will say just to persevere, that maybe you've made an error that you don't realize, and that the teacher is right," said one of her thirteen-year-old male classmates.38

Children said that they have no redress if their parents do not investigate their grievances. "You can not complain," said a Standard Eight pupil at a suburban Central Province primary school. "You tell your mom and if she does not come, then there is nothing you can do. So, you keep quiet."39 Jonas K., a twelve-year-old studying at an economically-disadvantaged rural school in Central Province, agreed: "If I tell my parents, they say nothing, because they think it is okay. Even if I am badly hurt, they say, 'You must have needed the beating.'"40 Anita W. told us, "Your parents will not say anything [about corporal punishment], except that you should not have made the mistake."41

Parents interviewed by Human Rights Watch generally supported the use of corporal punishment. One parent commented, "I appreciate the punishment they give to our children. A teacher who is feared by the pupils, they [the pupils] do better. . . . they do want to do their homework."42 Another parent began by quoting the Bible, saying:

There is a verse which says spare the rod and spoil the child. We have given teachers the authority to discipline [our children] without fear. . . . In 1963, in my primary school, I thought I shall try to find a means of getting back. I said I shall come back to beat them. That was boyish thinking. I am now able to see the results. I am grateful for what they did to me. Now I see it as their duty [to cane students].

[If a child is injured,] we count it as an accident. Accidents can happen anywhere. Your intent was not to hurt. If the parent also gets hot tempered [about the injury], you get some [other] parent and cool the temper. . . . If it happens once, it is an accident. . . . You tell the parent that "you are becoming a hothead, you are going to lose, you are not going to make your child what you want him to become." You cool them down.

If there was no cane, the children would not hear. It is like that with my wife. Sometimes I must box her a few times before she listens to me. . . . When he is a boy, cane him and he will be a good man.43

There was a clear divergence in attitudes of Kenyan children, teachers and parents toward corporal punishment. Kenyan children told us that they feel that corporal punishment is degrading, humiliating, and unfair. But most of the teachers and parents with whom we spoke are not sympathetic to their concerns.

Effect on Classroom Discipline and Instruction

Despite teacher and parent claims that corporal punishment makes it easier for instructors to manage their classrooms, there is little evidence that canings, whippings and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment are as effective as many Kenyans believe. According to experts in the field, "there is considerable data indicating that corporal punishment does not, in any consistent way, deter misbehavior or encourage good behavior on the part of children. Most experts agree that corporal punishment does nothing to fulfill the disciplinary goal of developing a child's conscience so as to enable him or her to behave well . . . ."44

Students told us that the imposition of the cane or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment does not help them focus on their studies. Ryan G. from Coast Province told us, "If you tell your parents [that you have been caned], often they just say, 'It is good to be punished, and to be caned, for that is how you learn.' But I myself, I do not agree with this. Teachers do not need to cane to teach discipline. If you cane a child, he will talk to you like a child, he will continue to behave like a child. If you instead explain to him his misbehavior and then forgive him, then instead he will behave like a man."45 At another Coast Province school, Anthony C. said, "I think there's no need for teachers to punish the dull kids . . . [caning] does not help them learn."46

Several students told us that the most effective instructors are those who do not rely on the cane. A teacher "who doesn't cane is better understood [by the students]," said a sixteen-year-old male student at a rural primary school in Coast Province.47 A group of Standard Eight students at another Coast Province primary school told us that the "class without caning" is the one in which they learn the most.48

Some students said that, regardless of how effective corporal punishment is, discipline would not suffer if it were not used. One secondary school student in a Nyanza Province city gave this analysis: "If it [caning] were banned, students would still be under control. I was absent without permission. I was not caned. I was made to sweep the classroom in the evening. Since then I have not been absent without permission. So caning is not necessary to control students."49 Another student at an urban secondary school, in Central Province, explained that caning cannot be necessary for good discipline, because "at Starehe Boys' Centre there is no punishment at all-but it has the best discipline."50

School Dropouts

Many children told us that corporal punishment was a significant factor leading students to drop out of school, or in some case to transfer to another school. Fourteen-year-old Aaron M. reported, "Some run away from school because of the punishment."51 Benson B., fifteen, a student in a primary school in the Rift Valley Province, told us that being beaten is "better than being expelled. We're given a choice. To accept the punishment or leave the school, so we accept it."52

Harold D. dropped out because he would not accept what he considered to be an unfair caning:

The deputy headteacher told me I had disobeyed the school rules-that I was talking, but I was sure that I was not talking and was really concentrating. He called me to his office and told me I would be caned, but I refused. Then he chased me home to call my parents. Two days later I went with my mother to the headteacher's office. The deputy headteacher was also there. I tried to explain I had not been talking, just concentrating. The headteacher said if I don't agree to the punishment he'd chase me out of school. I refused again to be caned and then left the school. I've never been back.53

While no primary school headteacher listed corporal punishment among the reasons that students at their school dropped out, one urban secondary school headteacher did: "There have been three cases this year where boys refused to be caned and left school. They must accept the punishment and agree. It's an offense to refuse to accept the punishment. If he refuses the punishment then he leaves the school on his own. He walks out on his own. We don't force them to leave."54

Other Kenyan educators agreed with children's perceptions that excessive corporal punishment leads to some students ending their formal studies. Joyce Muli and Joyce Wekesa, teachers at Pandipieri Primary School told us that if teachers impose physical punishment "too much, the child can become immune, or will come to fear school and will drop out."55 Geoffrey W. Griffin, the head of the elite Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi, said that most of the drop out problem in Kenyan schools generally is "due to teacher brutality."56

20 Susan H. Bitensky, "Spare the Rod . . .", pp. 426-27. See also Philip Greven, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse (New York: Knopf, 1991), p. 129; Irwin A. Hyman, Reading,Writing, and the Hickory Stick: The Appalling Story of Physical and Psychological Abuse in American Schools (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1990), pp. 94, 99-100; Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child (New York: Basic Books, 1990), p. 43; Peter Newell, Children Are People Too: The Case Against Physical Punishment (London: Bedford Square, 1989), p. 46; Irwin A. Hyman, "Corporal Punishment, Psychological Maltreatment, Violence and Punitiveness in America: Research, Advocacy, and Public Policy," Applied and Preventative Psychology, vol. 4 (1995): 114-116; Lawrence S. Wissow and Debra Roter, "Toward Effective Discussion of Discipline and Corporal Punishment During Primary Care Visits: Finding from Studies of Doctor-Patient Interaction," Pediatrics , vol. 94 (1994): 587-88. But see James C. Dobson, The Strong-Willed Child: Birth Through Adolescence (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1978), pp.34-35 (claiming that corporal punishment administered by loving parents deters children's misbehavior); and Diana Baumrind, "Parenting: The Discipline Controversy Revisited," Family Relations, vol. 45 (1996): 405 (arguing that parents who have a warm relationship with their children may use corporal punishment without negative effects).

21 Newell, Children Are People Too, p. 12; William Sears and Martha Sears, The Discipline Book: Everything You Need To Know To Have a Better-Behaved Child (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1995), p. 152; Bitensky, "Spare the Rod," p. 426.

22 Bitensky, "Spare the Rod . . . ", p. 428.

23 Ibid., p. 429.

24 Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1990), p. 7.

25 Bitensky, "Spare the Rod," p. 425.

26 Human Rights Watch interview with Geoffrey W. Griffin, Nairobi, May 7, 1999.

27 Human Rights Watch interview with Joyce Umbima, Nairobi, May 3, 1999.

28 Bitensky, "Spare the Rod," pp. 430-31. See also Greven, Spare the Child, p. 128-74, 186-212; Alice Miller, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence (New York: Dutton Books 1991) p. 30-38, 61-87, 94-95; Murray A. Straus, Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families (New York: Lexington Books, 1994) pp. 67-146; Wissow and Roter, "Toward Effective Discussion," pp. 587-88.

29 Human Rights Watch interview with Harold D.

30 Human Rights Watch interview with Jennifer D.

31 Human Rights Watch interview Samuel S., Central Province, May 7, 1999.

32 Human Rights Watch interview with Richard O.

33 Human Rights Watch interview with Ryan G.

34 Human Rights Watch interview with Headteacher Joseph Lagatt, Kabrirsang Primary School, Nandi District, May 11, 1999.

35 Human Rights Watch interview with Headteacher Paolo Okoth Odega, Kisumu Day Secondary School, Kisumu, May 10, 1999.

36 Human Rights Watch interview with Standard One Teacher Mary Macharia, Munyu Primary School, Naivasha District, May 6, 1999.

37 Human Rights Watch interview with John M. Mburu, Naivasha, May 6, 1999.

38 Human Rights Watch interview with Michael F., Coast Province, May 11, 1999.

39 Human Rights Watch interview with Casey S., at a suburban Central Province primary school, May 6, 1999.

40 Human Rights Watch interview with Jonas K., Central Province, May 6, 1999.

41 Human Rights Watch interview with Anita W.

42 Human Rights Watch interview with Kangundo D.E.B. school parent Janice Mutua, Machakos District, May 7, 1999.

43 Human Rights Watch interview with Kangundo D.E.B. school parent Joshua Muoka, Machakos District, May 7, 1999.

44 Bitensky, "Spare the Child," p. 426. See also Newell, Children Are People Too, p. 19; Nancy Samalin, Loving Your Child Is Not Enough: Positive Discipline That Works (New York: Viking, 1987) p. 73; Straus, Beating the Devil, pp. 100, 144.

45 Human Rights Watch interview with Ryan G.

46 Human Rights Watch interview with Anthony C., age sixteen, Coast Province, May 11, 1999.

47 Human Rights Watch interview with Marc L., Coast Province, May 11, 1999.

48 Human Rights Watch interviews, Coast Province, May 11, 1999.

49 Human Rights Watch interview with Billy S.

50 Human Rights Watch interview with Eliot H., age eighteen, Central Province, May 7, 1999.

51 Human Rights Watch interview with Aaron M.

52 Human Rights Watch interview with Benson B.

53 Human Rights Watch interview with Harold D.

54 Human Rights Watch interview with Headteacher Paolo Okoth Odega, Kisumu Day Secondary School, Kisumu, May 10, 1999.

55 Human Rights Watch interviews with Joyce Muli and Joyce Wekesa, Kisumu, May 10, 1999.

56 Human Rights Watch interview with Geoffrey W. Griffin, Nairobi, May 7, 1999.

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