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'I'm ashamed to meet my pupils now'

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The Tanzania Teachers' Union is taking legal action after 19 primary school teachers were caned.

The teachers were caned by a police officer, some in front of their pupils, after an investigation into poor exam results at three schools.

Ativus Leonard, a 33 year-old teacher at Katerero Primary School, 20 miles outside the regional capital Bukoba, and one of the victims of the caning, told the BBC what happened:

On Wednesday morning, the District Commissioner came to our school. He met with the head teacher and called a staff meeting.

Once we were gathered, the DC told us that they had been keeping track of the teachers who arrived late for work.

He read out the names of the teachers in question. I was one of them. I had been late for work twice in the last month.

He asked each of us our reasons for being late. I told him there were different reasons. It could be family problems, or if I had been feeling unwell.

The DC said our lateness was causing the school to fall behind and that it was unacceptable. He said he was going to punish us now.

'Inferior'

At first I assumed he was joking. I told myself that it could not be possible.

I have not been able to teach since this happened

But once they locked the doors of the staffroom and made everyone line up to receive their strokes, I knew that they meant business.

Seven of my female colleagues took strokes of the cane on the palms of their hands.

When it was my turn, a police officer ordered me to lie down and receive my punishment. I refused, so he kicked me and I fell down.

Once I was lying on the ground, he carried on kicking me. He brought out a big cane and beat me with it.

He hit me everywhere; my legs, my chest, my arms, my hands. When it was over, I went to the hospital for treatment. I was given medicine but I still have a lot of pain in my chest.

My legs were also injured. But worst of all, this has affected me psychologically.

This has made me feel ashamed to meet my pupils. They did not see me take the beating but they know about it.

I have not been able to teach since this happened. I feel inferior to the children now.

I am married with four children. My wife is also a teacher at a different school. She is furious that they have done this to me.

Right now, I'm still very angry. But I'm also stunned and amazed at what has happened.

The DC must be punished for what he has done. Caning teachers must be against the law. I am seeking financial compensation from the government for what I have suffered.



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