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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Kenyan schools spare the rod
Injured children
Schools 'out of control' since caning was banned
By Andrew Harding in Nairobi

In the past two months, a wave of unrest, arsons and even anarchy has engulfed Kenya's schools.


There is a very serious breakdown in law and order . The acceleration over the past six months or so, is I am sure is due to the caning ban

Headmaster Geoffrey Griffin

It is being blamed on the halt in corporal punishment imposed by the government in April this year, following the violent beatings of students.

Geoffrey Griffin is headmaster of The Starehe Boys Centre, perhaps the best school in the country, and he has been caning Kenyan children for decades.

"There is a very serious breakdown of law and order. The acceleration over the past six months or so, I am sure is due to the caning ban," he says.

"The kids now know they cannot be caned. They don't care about anything else the teachers can do to them and control, what little control there was, has been lost, I think, in a great many schools."

'Little control'

The worst case of violence by schoolchildren happened five months ago when arsonists attacked a dormitory in the middle of the night locking the doors and throwing petrol on to the flames.

Two pupils are now facing charges of murder for the fire that left more than 60 dead and several students injured.

I assumed most pupils would be happier about the caning ban, but I was wrong.

Polycarp Mutua is a 17-year old student and even though he was caned himself he said it was useful.

"The cane was used at the back of me. Actually it hurt - it hurts."

But Mutua said: "When you look at primary levels, the children are very, very disorganised and caning is the only way through this. So I think caning should be brought back. It should be more directed in a way."

Debate

The trouble is there has not been much moderation in the past.

Cleaning up
Police have charged two students for murder
At least four Kenyan children are known to have died from injuries inflicted by their teachers.

The debate over caning rages on in parliament and in staff rooms.

But Lawrence Matolo, the new headmaster of the Kyanguli School in eastern Kenya, where the awful arson attack took place five months ago, believes corporal punishment is not the answer.

"What happened could not have been corrected by a cane. What you are going for is talking, talking to the students so many times, repeated until they get to understand what we say."

See also:

28 Mar 01 | Africa
Kenya fire toll confusion
26 Mar 01 | Africa
In pictures: Kenya school fire
26 Mar 01 | Africa
Children die in Kenya school fire
26 Mar 98 | Africa
Kenya fire kills 24 teenagers
08 Mar 01 | Africa
Nigerian school blaze probe
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