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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK

World: Africa

Kenyan children 'beaten by teachers'

Report urges Kenya to ban corporal punishment

Kenyan schoolchildren are regularly beaten, whipped or punched by their teachers, according to a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The report says teachers use bamboo canes, wooden sticks or rubber whips to punish children for a range of minor offences, such as fidgeting or wearing a torn uniform.

In the document 'Spare the Child: Corporal Punishment in Kenyan Schools', Human Rights Watch says that although Kenyan authorities permit limited corporal punishment, the limits are routinely ignored.

It says that children are sometimes hit with such brutality that they are left with broken bones or teeth and internal bleeding.

In the worst cases, says the report, beatings have left children disabled and even dead, but teachers are rarely questioned or brought to account.

Teeth knocked out

One 12-year-old girl told Human Rights Watch that when three of her friends failed a test, the teacher gave them a choice of three slaps from his hand or ten strokes of the cane.

"This girl chose the three slaps and so he hit her on the face three times, very hard and her mouth was bloody and her two teeth came out," she said.

Parents interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they feared their children would be thrown out of school if they complained about the teachers.

Yodon Thonden of Human Rights Watch said Kenyan teachers were underpaid - earning less than US $60 a month - and had to teach classes of 50 or more.

"This does not however forgive the use of violence against children to correct their behaviour," he said.

The report calls on the Kenyan government to ban corporal punishment in schools and to train teachers in alternative means of maintaining discipline.

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