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At regional launch of violence study, Kenyan children say ‘no’ to corporal punishment

© UNICEF/2007/Chinyama
Independent Expert Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro participates in a group discussion with children in Nairobi after the regional launch of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children.

By Pamella Sittoni

NAIROBI, Kenya, 31 May 2007 – The UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children has been launched here by Kenyan Vice-President Moody Awori at an event attended by donors, non-governmental organization representatives and UN officials.

The study, which calls on all states to act to protect children, was launched globally in October 2006. The Nairobi event, attended by the study’s author, Independent Expert Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, was a regional launch of the report for Eastern and Southern Africa.

During the opening address, Cynthia Kabata, 12, said children suffered violence at home and in school. “They are often denied justice by judicial officials who cite lack of evidence,” she noted.

Prof. Pinheiro added that the report had taken the views of children on board with the hope that states would take action to stop violence against them. “I have met children across the world, and I have had to work hard to convince them that the study would make a difference for them,” he said.

Children air their views

After the launch, 10 children between the ages of 11 and 14 attended an interactive session with Prof. Pinheiro. He listened to their views on violence, which he said were important in tackling the issue.

“It is alright for teachers to cane students,” said one boy. “The teachers say they beat us to correct us, so that we don’t turn into criminals. Spare the rod and spoil…”

Before he could complete his sentence, the other children all interjected, each one raising an objection.

© UNICEF/2007/Chinyama
UNICEF Kenya child ambassadors in the Moipei Quartet – comprising triplets Magdalene, Mary and Martha, 13, and their sister Seraphine, 10 – entertain guests at the UN study launch.

Stopping violence at school

Pinto Omondi, 13, got his point across first: “When the teacher beats you on the back of your hand, you are unable to hold a pen to write. When he beats you on the buttocks, you can’t even sit. And when he beats you on your knees, you are in so much pain, you can’t walk. Teachers must be made to understand that caning children is illegal. They must stop.”

Other children agreed and proceeded to make their points one by one.

“It is the responsibility of the government to implement the law,” said Prof. Pinheiro, who had been keenly following the debate. “The government must help teachers and parents to use other ways of disciplining children that do not involve use of violence.”

Corporal punishment is one form of violence experienced by children in most Kenyan schools despite its prohibition under the country’s Children Act.

Ending abuses at home

As the discussion continued, Cynthia asked: “If a girl is being raped at home by her father, what do you say to her?”

The advice came flowing from her peers. “I would tell her to make use of the life skills we learn at school. She should throw soil into his eyes to blind him, then run away,” said Arian Ogo, 13.

Joshua Ongeta, 11, sought Prof. Pinheiro’s advice on how children should deal with “unfair” parents at home. “Sometimes, your father gets angry at you and sends you out of the house,” Joshua said. “The problem with this is that you could end up in a neighbour’s house where you can be sexually abused.”

Prof. Pinheiro advised the children to stay out of trouble and follow the rules at home to avoid getting thrown out. “Parents need some information and education,” he said, “but as children, you should avoid situations that put you in danger.”



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