The Namibian (Windhoek)

21 December 2012

Namibia: Bullying, Corporal Punishment Prevalent in Schools

A SITUATION analysis done by the National Planning Commission found that bullying and corporal punishment are very common in Namibian schools, and that girls in school hostels are vulnerable to rape and sexual harassment.

More than 22,6 percent of pupils interviewed said they had been verbally teased, insulted and intimidated at school.

More than 18 percent said they had been hit, kicked or punched at school, and 17,3 percent said they had been threatened with harm at school. And a shocking 5,7 percent said they had been forced to "do things with their bodies" against their will, or sexually abused by someone at school.

At the start of last year, it was widely reported that 1 493 schoolgirls had to drop out of school after they fell pregnant during the previous year.

Thirty-one teachers were held responsible for some of the pregnancies, with Education Minister Abraham Iyambo then calling for more stringent measures to deal with those impregnating girls placed under their supervision.

Discrimination and harassment against San children are proportionally worse than for others.

In her 2010 interim report entitled 'Barriers to educational attainment among San and recommendations on the way forward', Louise Newbould said: "The school environment appears to be hostile in comparison to the home environment especially with regards to discipline. This often results in San children running away as well as it increasing the tensions between the schools and San families".

Newbould also observed that San parents are often unable to afford school uniforms and toiletries for their children, which results in bullying from teachers and fellow learners.

The Unicef report 'Improving quality and equity in Education in Namibia: A trend and gap analysis' stated that in 2007, there were 6 441 San learners in Namibian schools out of the 570 623 school-going population. In 2009, there was a marked drop of San learners - 2 126 out of 585 471.

The reasons given are clashing cultures at school and San communities, and the fact that the education system does not provide mother-tongue instruction for San children in Grades 1 to 3.

Another study further found that children living with HIV are teased and ostracised when their HIV status became known.

The Unicef report suggested that the education ministry ensures adherence to the teacher code of conduct and that any teacher in breach thereof must be dealt with in accordance with provisions of the Public Service Act.

The code of conduct requires that teachers respect the dignity and constitutional rights of every learner without prejudice, to promote gender equality and refrain from discrimination among others on the basis of a person's HIV-AIDS status, and to promote acceptable moral standards and development among learners.

Teachers may not in any shape or form humiliate or abuse a learner, be it physically, emotionally or psychologically. They may also not administer corporal or any other degrading punishment on any learner.

The Unicef report further proposed that a proper study be done to assess the dimensions of bullying and violent behaviour at schools, and said policies should include policies on non-violent behaviour management, anti-bullying, and anti-discrimination policies.

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