Sierra Leone

Please add your signature to the letter to the Ministers of Education expressing concern over continued use of corporal punishment against children in school and in care settings.

What is Sierra Leone’s commitment to prohibit corporal punishment?

Sierra Leone expressed its commitment to prohibit all corporal punishment of children by accepting the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review of Sierra Leone in 2016. 'Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment Of Children.’ But this prohibition is still to be achieved fully in the home, alternative care settings, day care and schools.

How soon is the country going to implement laws to end all forms of corporal punishment of children?

The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1926 confirms the right of parents, teachers and others to “administer punishment” to a child (art. 3); the Child Rights Act 2007 confirms the concept of “reasonable” and “justifiable” correction (art. 33(2)). The near universal acceptance of a certain degree of correction in childrearing necessitates clarity in law that no degree of corporal punishment is acceptable or lawful.

We are calling for the repeal of these articles and the prohibition of all corporal punishment by parents and all those with parental authority in various settings.

Schools – All legal provisions authorising the use of corporal punishment in schools should be repealed and prohibition enacted in relation to all education settings, public and private.
Day care – Corporal punishment should be prohibited in all early childhood care (nurseries, crèches, kindergartens, preschools, family centres, etc) and all day care for older children (day centres, after-school childcare, childminding, etc).
Alternative care settings – Prohibition should be enacted in legislation applicable to all alternative care settings (foster care, institutions, places of safety, emergency care, etc).

To The Ministers,
Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and Ministry of Technical and Higher Education in Sierra Leone
Mr. David Moinina Sengeh
Dr. Alpha T Wurie
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Dear Sirs,

On behalf of the entire membership of Future Leaders Initiative SL and other organisations working to protect the rights of children across Sierra Leone and beyond its borders, we write to urge you to take decisive action on the issue of corporal punishment of children at home, school and in other settings.

We firmly believe that in your roles as Ministers of Education you have crucial functions in improving the future of young Sierra Leonean children and protecting their rights.

Over years now Sierra Leone has not made any progress in addressing the issue of corporal punishment in schools. Prior to the Child Rights Act 2007 which clearly confirms the concept of “reasonable” and “justifiable” correction (art. 33(2)). The near universal acceptance of a certain degree of correction in childrearing necessitates clarity in law that no degree of corporal punishment is acceptable or lawful.

We believe these articles should be repealed and prohibition of all corporal punishment should be enacted in relation to parents and all those with parental authority. As it was willingly documented in a Human Rights Watch report “Spare the Child,” published in September 1999, teachers used caning, slapping, and whipping to maintain classroom discipline and to punish children for poor academic performance, coming to school late and not paying lesson fees. Bruises and cuts were regular by-products of school punishments, and more severe injuries—such as broken bones, knocked-out teeth and internal bleeding—were not infrequent. At times, beatings by teachers left children permanently disfigured, disabled or not coming to school anymore because of shame and provocation.

As you are aware, there are many forms of injustice in schools across the country ranging from sex for grades, child abuse and much more. We all have seen how these acts bring nothing good for the country but poverty, drop outs, violence, unemployment and underdevelopment.

Mr. Ministers, our neighbouring country, Guinea has adopted non-violent methods of disciplining children, and have prohibited corporal punishment in all schools across the country. This has prompted us to ask why is Sierra Leone not following this positive act for the betterment of our children and our beloved country?

Mr. Ministers, we have found out that corporal punishment leads to high levels of non-compliance and aggression, and lower levels of moral internalisation and poor mental health in children.

There is still considerable progress to be made. Corporal punishment is still widely used in schools and most parents across the country especially those in the rural areas do not know the psychological effect of corporal punishment on children. In most rural schools the magnitude of physical punishment; such as making children stand in the hot sun with their hands in the air for several hours, kneeling on the ground for extended periods, slapping and pinching is unbearable and unacceptable. In some instances, physical abuse by teachers has led to serious and lasting injuries. Teachers also punish children by giving them harsh tasks, such as running long distances or uprooting tree stumps.

We are making this humble appeal to you to take strong action against corporal punishment in Sierra Leone, in conjunction with the Minister of Gender and Children Affairs and the Minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs. We specifically urge you to initiate the following measures:

• Introduce legislation explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment in schools, in the home, and in all other settings. This could be done through amendments to the Children’s Act and the Education Act.

• Conduct public education and awareness raising campaigns on children’s rights to protect them from all forms of violence, including corporal punishment. Promote alternative, participatory, non-violent forms of discipline. This campaign should include work with parents, teachers, and other members of the community.

• Publish teacher guidelines on alternative forms of discipline in schools jointly with non-governmental children’s rights NGOs.

• Provide regular training to current and new teachers on the ban on corporal punishment, alternative forms of discipline and counselling.

• Increase the number of teachers to reduce pressure and discipline problems in schools, to improve dialogue between pupils and teachers, and raise the education standards in Sierra Leone.
• Improve monitoring of teachers in both government and private schools.
• Ensure that judicial action is taken against those who carry out corporal punishment in schools. Take measures to facilitate access to justice for child victims and their parents.
• Take a lead in implementing the recommendations of the UN Study on Violence against Children, and for that purpose, set up a task force to develop and implement a national strategy or plan of action on ending violence against children.

We suggest you could implement 'Canes Down, Pens Up National Campaign' to raise awareness among children about their rights, including the right to seek prosecution of those who use violence against them.

We hope that you will consider these as priority issues in your action plans and policies, and would welcome further discussion with you on our findings and recommendations.

Yours Sincerely,
Ambassador Ibrahim S Bangura
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Future Leaders Initiative SL
Acting Deputy Country Director for Youth for Peace and Security Africa [YPSA]
Western Area Sierra Leone
A member of the Young African Leaders Initiative [YALI]

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The PETITION TO PROHIBIT CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN IN SIERRA LEONE petition to 5000 was written by Future Leaders Initiative SL and is in the category Youth at GoPetition.