10 January 2019

Swaziland: Research in Swaziland Suggests Spanking Children Is Harmful and Can Cause Mental Problems

Photo: The Herald
(File photo).

New research from Swaziland / eSwatini and other developing countries suggests that spanking children is harmful and can cause mental problems.

The study used data from UNICEF global children's organisation from 62 countries, including Swaziland.

Corporal punishment is widespread in homes in Swaziland. It was banned from schools in 2015 but continues to be used.

The study from the University of Michigan in the United States found one-third of people questioned said they believed physical punishment was necessary to bring up, raise or educate a child properly. Among the children studied, 43 percent were spanked, or resided in a home where another child was spanked.

A child's social development suffered in both cases in which he or she was spanked or during times when a sibling had been spanked, the study showed.

Garrett Pace, the study's lead author said, 'It appears that in this sample ... spanking may do more harm than good.'

Pace also noted that 'reductions in corporal punishment might do a great deal to reduce the burden of children's mental health and improve child development outcomes globally'.

More effort to create policies that discourage spanking has occurred globally. In fact, 54 countries have banned the use of corporal punishment, which can only benefit children's well-being long term, Pace and colleagues said.

In a separate report UNICEF estimated nearly nine in ten children in Swaziland suffered 'violent discipline'.

In a report of a national survey published in August 2017, UNICEF stated 'violent discipline in the home, which includes physical punishment and psychological aggression, affects more than 88 per cent of all children in Swaziland.

'The study findings also reveal that sexual violence and bullying affects 38 percent and 32 percent of children in Swaziland, respectively. The study found that children experiencing one type of violence were more likely to experience other types of violence.

'One staggering statistic to emerge from the data revealed that for every girl child known to Social Welfare as having experienced sexual violence, there are an estimated 400 girls who have never received help or assistance for sexual violence.'

UNICEF reported one of the 'drivers' of violence against children was Swazi culture. It stated, 'The widely accepted notion of keeping family matters private to protect the family or community over the individual was repeatedly cited as a driver of violence and was also found to be a factor dissuading individuals from intervening when they suspect a child is abused.'

Article 29(2) of the Swaziland Constitution 2005 states 'a child shall not be subjected to abuse or torture or other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment subject to lawful and moderate chastisement for purposes of correction'. The Children's Protection and Welfare Act 2012 however provides for 'justifiable' discipline.

Corporal punishment was banned in Swazi schools by the Ministry of Education and Training in 2015, but caning continues. There are many reports from across Swaziland that pupils have been brutalised by their teachers.

In a debate in the Swazi Parliament in March 2017 members of parliament called for the cane to be brought back into schools. The MPs said the positive discipline adopted in schools was causing problems for teachers because they no longer knew how to deal with wayward pupils.

There had been 4,556 cases of 'severe corporal punishment' of children in Swaziland's schools over the previous four years, Star Africa reported in March 2016.

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.

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