A school pupil in Swaziland was thrashed so hard that he later collapsed unconscious and had to be rushed to a clinic.
Then, the school’s principal blamed the boy himself – saying he may have reacted badly because he has a ‘phobia’ to being beaten.
There’s an old journalism saying: ‘You couldn’t make it up’, meaning something is so outlandish that it can’t be fiction.
I thought I’d heard it all when it was reported at the weekend that one high school principal publicly flogged adults in front of his school assembly if they broke rules that he had set.
What is it about Swazi teachers and their need to flog children, often using bizarre rituals?
In the latest example, it is reported that six pupils at Mafucula High school were thrashed with 20 strokes of a ‘small log’ because they were singing in class. It is reported that the boy who became unconscious wasn’t even one of those misbehaving, but he was flogged nonetheless.
The maximum number of strokes permitted at the school is three. But pupils at the school told the Times of Swaziland that heavy punishment was rife and 20 strokes was usually the minimum number given.
They said that the teachers have a ‘beating time roster’ which shows which teacher gives the beatings at a particular day and time.
The pupils said the teachers use tigidvo, referring to smaller logs for beating them.
The teacher in this case is said to have used a stick which was wrapped in insulation tape to keep it from breaking, regardless of how many strokes were given.
The school’s Principal Popi Hlatshwako told the newspaper, ‘It is possible that he [the boy who became unconscious] has a kind of phobia about being beaten and this is what could have resulted in him fainting.’
Corporal punishment in schools is rife in Swaziland and although there are rules about the number of strokes that may be given and how punishment may be administered, these rules are largely ignored.
Late in 2010, the Swaziland Ministry of Education and Training reported that it had been inundated with calls on a toll-free phone line it set up to receive complaints of abuse from children about the high number of caning strokes they got from teachers.
There are many cases of physical abuse of children by their teachers. In March 2009, a nine-year-old primary school child was whipped so badly by her teacher she died of her injuries.
In May 2010, 30 children were lined up and publicly whipped in a bizarre corporal punishment ritual at their primary school. 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 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.
Then there was the case of the sadistic school teachers who lined up to whip 20 children at a primary school. Each 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.
In 2005, The International Save the Children Alliance published research into Swazi children’s experiences of corporal punishment.
In a survey, 20 percent of children reported being hit with a hand and 59 percent of children reported being beaten with an object at school during a two-week period. In schools, children are most often hit with the hand, sticks, canes, sjamboks and blackboard dusters.
Children reported being subjected to corporal punishment at school due to making a noise or talking in class, coming late to school, not completing work, not doing work correctly, failing tests, wearing incorrect uniform items, dropping litter, losing books or leaving them at home.