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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Corporal Punishment: Kenya’s School Horror

Even after various National and International Laws against Corporal Punishment, schools in Kenya remains to be a nightmare for it’s children


Corporal Punishment in Kenya's Schools

In the heart of Mombasa, Kenya, a 13-year-old boy named Caleb Mwangi endured a brutal beating at his school that would leave him in an induced coma for 11 days. This shocking incident is just one example of a pervasive issue that continues to plague Kenyan schools: corporal punishment.

Despite a government ban on such practices in 2001, attitudes persist, and recent reports reveal a disturbing increase in severe cases.

This article delves into the alarming reality of corporal punishment in Kenyan schools, examining its history, the challenges of enforcement, and the harrowing experiences of students and their families.


A History of Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment in Kenyan schools has a long and troubling history, dating back to the colonial era when missionaries and colonizers used it to assert their authority. Although the Kenyan government officially banned the practice in 2001, the change in attitudes has been slower to come.

According to the latest Violence Against Children report from a 2019 national household survey, more than half of 18 to 24-year-olds in Kenya still believe it is necessary for teachers to use corporal punishment.


The Traumatic Case of Caleb Mwangi     

Horror of Corporal Punishment for school children

Caleb’s ordeal began nearly two years ago when he took extra food at breakfast. His hunger led to a horrifying chain of events that would scar him for life.

Nancy Gachewa, the director of Gremon Education Centre, a school in Bamburi near Mombasa, reportedly beat Caleb and then ordered other students to continue the punishment.

Ms. Gachewa denies these allegations, claiming she was not at the school when it happened.

Caleb, now sitting with his parents, still bears the physical and emotional scars. His legs, back, arms, and face were covered in nearly a hundred lacerations. The trauma from his near-death experience has left him struggling with rage, leading him to punch walls in frustration.


The Escalating Crisis

Caleb’s case, horrifying as it is, is far from unique. In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in severe cases of corporal punishment being reported in Kenyan schools.

An anonymous source within the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), an organization responsible for managing the teaching profession in Kenya, revealed that reports of severe school beatings have quadrupled from seven to 29 in just three years. Regrettably, many such incidents are never reported.

According to the TSC source, these cases often do not progress beyond the county level, as evidence is corrupted, witnesses are hard to find, and cases are often “killed” before they see the light of day.

The situation has become a crisis, resulting in severe consequences and, in some tragic instances, even death.


A Disturbing Trend: Student Deaths 

Horror of Corporal Punishment for school

In the past five years, over 20 student deaths linked to school beatings have been reported in the media.

One of these tragic cases is that of 15-year-old Ebbie Noelle Samuels, a student at Gatanga CCM Secondary School. Ebbie’s mother, Martha Wanjiro Samuels, was told that her daughter was unwell in the hospital. Upon arrival, she discovered her daughter had already passed away.

The school claimed Ebbie died in her sleep, but witnesses alleged she had been beaten by the deputy principal for her hairstyle.    

The autopsy report revealed severe head injuries, leading to her tragic death.

Last January, Elizabeth Wairimu Gatimu, the former deputy principal of Ebbie’s school, was arrested for murder, though she denies the charges.


Pushing for Change

One organization determined to bring about change is Beacon Teachers Africa, launched by the non-governmental group Plan International in collaboration with the TSC.

The organization’s mission is to empower teachers to protect children in schools and communities.

With a network of 50,000 teachers across 47 African countries, Beacon Teachers Africa is making strides in the fight against corporal punishment in schools.



UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stands as the primary human rights instrument dedicated to safeguarding the rights and well-being of children.

As of November 2019, it has been ratified or acceded to by 196 states, with the notable exception of the United States.*


Relevant Articles In The CRC

The CRC holds several key articles that directly address the issue of corporal punishment of children:

1. Article 19:

This article places an unequivocal obligation on states to enact all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, abuse, neglect, negligent treatment, maltreatment, or exploitation. This protection extends to sexual abuse and applies while a child is under the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s), or any other person responsible for the child.

2. Article 28(2): This article underscores that states should ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with a child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.

3. Article 37(a): Article 37 commits states to guarantee that no child should be subjected to torture or any form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. It firmly stipulates that neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release should be imposed on individuals below eighteen years of age.

Article 4: of the Convention emphasizes the comprehensive approach required for implementing children’s rights. It calls upon states to undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the effective implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention.


These articles in the CRC form the bedrock of the Convention’s framework in addressing corporal punishment and protecting the rights of children. They insist on equality, the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival, and development, and respect for the child’s views. The CRC serves as a robust and unambiguous framework for protecting and promoting the rights of children, including the resolute prohibition of corporal punishment. It is a testament to the commitment of the international community to safeguard the dignity, well-being, and rights of every child in every corner of the world.



The dark shadow of corporal punishment continues to loom over Kenyan schools, despite the government’s ban on the practice. The recent increase in severe cases, like that of Caleb Mwangi and Ebbie Noelle Samuels, highlights the pressing need for change. Efforts by organizations such as Beacon Teachers Africa are crucial in protecting the rights and well-being of students. It is incumbent upon the Kenyan government, educational institutions, and civil society to work together to eradicate the horrors of corporal punishment from the nation’s schools and ensure a safe and nurturing learning environment for all.


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