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85% of Nigerian children suffer violent discipline in schools ― UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that about 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.

UNICEF Chief of Education, Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, revealed on Tuesday in Abuja 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.

She described the discussion on ending corporal punishment in schools as “difficult and heart-breaking,” saying however 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 per cent 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 is a staggering statistic colleague one that demands urgent action and is indicative of a crisis,” Panday-Soobrayan said.

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 “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. Spanking, just like more severe abuse, is linked to atypical brain function.”

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who was represented by Hajia 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.

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Adamu noted that globally, there is evidence indicating that corporal punishment in schools has impacted negatively on attendance and 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 in the whole process of teaching and learning.

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 Nigeria.

The meeting was also aimed at developing an action plan on the road map for ending corporal punishment in schools with the aim of 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 around the world 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.

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85% of Nigerian children suffer violent discipline in schools ― UNICEF

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