Thirty children were lined up and publicly whipped in a bizarre corporal punishment ritual at their primary school in Swaziland.
But the school’s principal said people shouldn’t be concerned about it because they get whipped all the time. ‘The children are used to it,’ she said.
The pupils, aged between 11 and 16, at Sibuyeni Primary School were reportedly each whipped more than 20 times for being in ‘love relationships’.
The children were called to a school assembly where they found the principal, members of the school committee, their parents and some teachers, all armed with sticks.
The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reports, ‘Desks were strategically placed on the veranda near the assembly point, which were to be used as “sacrifice-tables”. Behind each desk was an adult who was armed with a stick.
‘The children, with the youngest estimated to be 11 years old were ordered to lie flat on their stomachs on top of the desks.
‘The whole exercise which was witnessed by other pupils lasted for about an hour.’
The Times reports that the children were whipped because they were alleged to be in ‘love relationships’.
What seems to have happened is this: One girl had been found ‘standing with a boy’ and when the pair were scolded by an elder in their community they were disrespectful. From this small incident grew a witch hunt at the school in which terrified children were threatened with expulsion if they didn’t name names of pupils involved in ‘love relationships’. All the children named were publicly whipped even though they denied the accusation and no proof was offered of their guilt.
The school’s principal H. Mahlalela told the Times, ‘The children were brought by their parents to the school to be disciplined. The whipping was done mostly by the parents. We only played a small part,’ she said.
Mahlalela added that there was nothing sinister about this because the children were accustomed to being sjam-boked by their parents at the school. ‘The children are used to it,’ she said.
This is not the first time that schools have denied the human rights of children by flogging them. As I reported in March 2009, a nine-year-old primary school child was whipped so badly by her teacher she died of her injuries.
Then there was the case of the sadistic school teachers who lined up to whip 20 children at a primary school. Each Swazi child received 27 lashes from nine teachers who took it in turns to give each child three cuts. The children’s crime? They had been watching two boys fighting.
Another time 18 primary school children were whipped with a piece of pipe on their backsides because they were eating their lunch from buckets.
Corporal punishment is only one of the violations that children suffer in Swaziland. In 2009 I wrote about the plight of Swazi children who live appalling lives of deprivation and abuse. To read more click here.