Parents, teachers accused of violence against children

Details from a recent study conducted by Action Aid International Rwanda, has shown that there is no place that is safe for children in the country.

Details from a recent study conducted by Action Aid International Rwanda, has shown that there is no place that is safe for children in the country.

The research dubbed ‘Gender-based violence in and around schools in Rwanda’ carried out in November 2007 said that families and schools are some of the unsafe places where children are confronted with violence. The report notes that the kind of violence subjected to children in families, schools and in their neighborhood seems to be regarded as normal.

The report also cites corporal punishment as the most common type of violence subjected to children. "The recourse to physical violence measures is generally perceived like the more adapted manner of punishing children," part of the report reads.

"Parents and teachers continue to physically attack children by whipping, slapping, or beating them to maintain discipline at home and in class to sanction the weak school performance or the unacceptable behavior."

The researchers interviewed pupils, parents or guardians, opinion and religious leaders, police, prosecutors and teachers. They picked out random schools in ten districts across the country. The participating districts included, Gasabo, Kicuciro, Nyanza, Nyaruguru, Musanze, Gicumbi and Rwamagana. Others were Nyagatare, Karongi and Rubavu.

According to the report, of the 400 pupils interviewed, 59.3 per cent reported being regularly beaten, 33.8 per cent endure insults and spittle, 30 per cent are prevented from playing, and 26.3 per cent are denied school material, while 20.0 per cent are neglected when they fall sick. All these acts, the report says, cause physical and psychological suffering to children.

The report cited execution of child labour as another form of violence inflicted on children of varying ages. The various forms of child labour cited include carrying a 20 litre jerry can of local brew to the market located in a distance of more than five kilometers by children between the age of 6 to 7 years. Others include carrying luggage like merchandise, fire wood, harvests among other things.

The teachers and parents maintain their method of punishment because under the cultural setting, their conduct is not questioned, the report says. And it has served to perpetuate the vice.

This practice however, has impacted on the children school performance and retarded their normal growth. At least 43 % of the pupils interviewed fail their exams due to the violence, 30% repeat class, while 15 % abandon school.

Other effects highlighted include, children fleeing homes to act as housemaids, psychological trauma, physical handicap, early pregnancy and marriages.

On sexual violence, the report reveals that girls are involved in friendly relations with people of the opposite sex who ‘thereafter exert pressure on them to have sex.’

According to the report, girls are regularly abused by their peers and adults who force them to have sexual intercourse. Cases of parents who encourage early marriages of their daughters who have conceived were also reported.

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