The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 85 per cent of Nigerian children between the ages of 1 and 14 experience violent discipline in schools, with nearly 1 in 3 children experiencing severe physical punishment.
Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, UNICEF Chief of Education, made this disclosure at a two-day National Awareness Creation Meeting on Ending Corporal Punishment in schools, organised by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) in collaboration with UNICEF.
On Tuesday at the meeting, she said that the discussion on ending corporal punishment in schools is”difficult and heartbreaking.”
The UNICEF chief noted that the presence of participants at the meeting was a testament to Nigeria’s determination to uphold every child’s right to safety, well-being and quality, inclusive education.
“Yesterday, we confronted the harrowing reality that 85% of children between the ages of 1 and 14 in Nigeria experience violent discipline, with nearly 1 in 3 children experiencing severe physical punishment. This staggering statistic demands urgent action and is indicative of a crisis,” she said.
“Much of this violent discipline takes place in the form of corporal punishment in the institutions entrusted to keep children safe, develop respect for human rights and prepare them for life in a society that promotes understanding peace, and conflict resolution through dialogue.”
According to her, the persistence of these practices contradicts Nigeria’s National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools, which commits to zero-tolerance to any threat to the security of life and property in schools.
Panday-Soobrayan also noted that the practice is “stalling Nigeria’s progress toward SDG 3 to ensure good health and well-being, SDG 4 on equitable and inclusive quality education and target 16.2 (to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children).”
While noting the impact of corporal punishment on children is devastating, she said children are left with both physical and psychological wounds.
She further stated that “physical punishment causes not only pain, sadness, fear, shame, and
anger but is also linked with children’s hyperreactivity to stress, changes in brain structure and function, and overloaded nervous, cardiovascular, and nutritional systems. Like more severe abuse, Spanking is linked to atypical brain function.”
“The damage is not only acute, affecting their learning in the current moment, but also chronic. A large body of research links physical punishment with long-term disability or death; mental ill-health; impaired cognitive and socio-emotional development; school dropout and poorer academic and occupational outcomes; increased antisocial behaviour, aggression, and criminal behaviour in adulthood; and damaged relationships through its intergenerational transmission.”
Also speaking, Adamu Adamu, Nigeria’s Minister of Education, represented by Binta Abdulkadir, endorsed the action plan and roadmap for ending corporal punishment in schools in line with the Child’s Rights Act passed into law in 2003, protecting children’s right to a life free of violence.
Adamu noted that globally, there is evidence indicating that corporal punishment in schools has negatively impacted attendance, learning, and outcomes.
“In Nigeria, studies have indicated that corporal punishment is one of the key factors militating against retention and transition of pupils in our schools which have huge implications on the educational system and achievement of the Sustainable development goal 4,” he said.
Earlier, the Registrar of TRCN, Prof Josiah Ajiboye, Globally, there is a paradigm shift from corporal punishment in schools because of its effect on pupils, adding that practice has been proven to be ineffective, dangerous and an
unacceptable method of controlling and maintaining behaviour and discipline.
Ajiboye said corporal punishment brings negative rather than positive consequences on the whole
process of teaching and learning.
“It tends to increase child aggression and antisocial behaviour, lower intellectual achievements, enhance the poor quality of parent/teacher-student relations and cause mental health problems. Since corporal
punishment tends to dehumanise children and make them feel scared, ashamed and worthless during the learning and teaching process, the time has come for it to be eliminated from both homes and schools to enhance positive learning.
“We desire that children’s learning experience should always be positive and never traumatic. With enthusiasm, I appreciate representatives of FME, NUT, CSOs and all Education stakeholders for their dedication to endorsing Safe to Learn initiative geared towards ending violence in and through schools,” he said.
He said the meeting was organised to share and discuss evidence on the negative impact of corporal punishment on children and learning outcomes, well as discuss and agree on a set of national and state-specific strategies/interventions for ending corporal punishment in schools in
The meeting was also aimed at developing an action plan on a road map for ending corporal punishment in schools to substantially and systematically reduce dropout rates and increase the transition and completion of children in schools.
“Learning and safety can no longer be thought of as separate entities. As decision-makers worldwide look to respond to the compounding crises or the pandemic, conflict, climate and poverty, safe education must be at the heart of our efforts to build back better and safer for children,” he said.
The TRCN boss noted, however, that more effort needs to be made to educate parents and teachers on the implication of corporal punishment as well as the alternatives that are available to them, noting that good school discipline depends not only on non-violent responses to poor student behaviour but on skilled and properly trained teachers.
On his part, the World Bank Senior Education Specialist, Prof Tunde Adekola, said the global bank believes there is a correlation between learning poverty and corporal punishment while stressing the urgency of implementing the action plan against corporal punishment in schools.
Adekola also called for a coalition of stakeholders from the states and local governments, non-state actors, civil society organisations, and others to implement action against corporal punishment.
He added that the action plan being developed should have a baseline, verifiable and clear definition of roles to measure the success of implementation.