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July 22, 8: We believe that in your new role as Minister of Education, you will have a crucial function in improving the future of young Kenyans and protecting their rights.
We recognize that over the past eight years Kenya has made some progress in addressing the issue of corporal punishment in schools.
Prior tocorporal punishment in schools in Kenya was routine, arbitrary, and often brutal. Bruises and cuts were regular by-products of school punishments, and more severe injuries—such as broken bones, knocked-out teeth and internal bleeding—were not infrequent.
At times, beatings by teachers left children permanently disfigured, disabled or dead. Since then, slow change has been occurring in Kenya. Some schools have started to adopt non-violent methods of disciplining children, and have abandoned caning.
Inthe Director of Education issued a circular to all heads of learning institutions, reminding them that corporal punishment was outlawed.
The government also carried out training seminars on alternative forms of discipline. Some teachers are now recognizing the benefits of respectful treatment of their pupils.
As one teacher pointed out to Human Rights Watch: However, there is still considerable progress to be made. In AugustHuman Rights Watch researchers carried out interviews with pupils, teachers and Ministry of Education officials. Pupils described how some teachers continue to cane children, while others resort to other forms of physical punishment, such as standing in the hot sun with their hands in the air for several hours; kneeling on the ground for extended periods; slapping and pinching.
In some instances, physical abuse by teachers has led to serious and lasting injuries. Teachers also punish children by giving them harsh tasks, such as running long distances or uprooting tree stumps. They show that the government must do more to fight corporal punishment in schools, and address weaknesses in the law and in implementing existing policies.
There have been too few prosecutions of teachers who seriously abuse children; more needs to be done to facilitate access to justice for those parents and children who want to take their case to court.
Teacher training has been too limited; typically, one teacher per school was sent to a training on alternative forms of discipline and counseling of pupils. The majority of teachers have not been trained and feel that the person who was trained at their school is not a sufficient resource for them.
The introduction of free primary education in exacerbated problems of discipline for many teachers. In some schools, teachers have more than one hundred pupils in their classrooms, including older children who were sent to school for the first time and found it hard to accept the authority of teachers.
The government did not do enough to prepare teachers for this challenge. Current numbers of teachers are not sufficient to lower class sizes to a manageable level. Some parents have brought their children to school and caned them in front of teachers, or asked the teachers to cane them in their presence.
For the ban in schools to be effective corporal punishment must be abolished in all settings. A core recommendation of the report is that governments prohibit all violence against children, including corporal punishment.
We therefore appeal to you to take strong action against corporal punishment in Kenya, in conjunction with the Minister of Gender and Children Affairs and the Minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs.
We specifically urge you to initiate the following measures: Promote alternative, participatory, non-violent forms of discipline.
This campaign should include work with parents, teachers, and other members of the community. Take measures to facilitate access to justice for child victims and their parents. We hope that you will consider these as priority issues in your action plans and policies, and would welcome further discussion with you on our findings and recommendations.
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Send an assignment letter when you are communicating information about an assignment, such as a work or school assignment. You will sometimes write a letter like this on behalf of someone else, such as your child, your elderly parent, or someone who has placed you in charge of his or her affairs.
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