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Outcry after schoolchildren caned over mobile phones

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Agence France-Presse

Human rights groups in Tanzania on Thursday fired a volley of criticism after video footage emerged of 14 school pupils being caned by a regional governor for breaking school rules.

Footage of the punishment, which went viral on the internet, showed Albert Chalamila, governor of Mbeya in southern Tanzania, giving three strokes of the cane to each student, all of them stretched out on the ground.

They had violated a ban on having mobile phones in their school.

The punishment was administered in front of the students’ schoolmates, police officers and teachers.

Some of the educators can be heard giving verbal encouragement to Chalamila as he administers the blows.

Anna Henga, executive director of an NGO called the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), said the punishment was “cruel and degrading” and an abuse of office.

“The appropriate individual for punishing a pupil is the school head,” she said in a tweet.

Onesmo Olengurumwa, coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC), said Chalamila had committed “not just an abuse of power but also a criminal violation.”

Under a 1979 law, corporal punishment can only be administered by the school’s director, and only in the event of serious breaches. The punishment is administered by a light, flexible cane on the hand or buttocks.

Corporal punishment in schools flared into a national controversy last year after a 13-year-old boy in the northern province of Kagera died of injuries inflicted by his teacher.

Human Rights Watch, in February 2017, said corporal punishment in Tanzanian schools was widespread, was frequently “brutal and humiliating” and called for it to be banned.

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