Bravo to Lagos Over Children`s Rights
03 Jul 2011
THANKS to the recent legislation passed in Lagos State by the administration of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN, the caning, beating or physical torture of school students, and of workplace apprentices, has been outlawed entirely, and declared both illegal and criminally culpable throughout that state. This recognition accorded the basic human rights of Lagos State’s children, by Governor Fashola, is, without question, one of the most constructive, progressive and profoundly humanitarian initiatives ever set forth into law by any Nigerian elected leader, since the nation’s 1960 independence.
A simple internet search yields an abundance of thoroughly documented medical evidence, which unambiguously links the “punitive” beating of human beings to very severe and permanently debilitating injuries that range from blindness-inducing eye damage, to life-long paralysis of the legs, possible from SINGLE blunt-force cane impacts to the sciatic nerve, which runs close to the spine in the lower back, just beneath the skin. A research paper recently published by the Department of Ophthalmology, at the College of Health Sciences in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, cited a four-year study which concluded that an astonishing 30.3% of all eye injuries, presented at that hospital alone, by children aged between 5 and 15 years old, were DIRECTLY attributed to caning or whipping attacks that went horribly wrong, either in schools or at home
From a purely medical standpoint, there is NO safe area of the human body suitable for assault with a stick or other blunt-force weapon. Just as easily as a cane-strike to the lower back carries the potential to inflict lifetime lower limb paralysis on the victim, an errant stick, whip or belt-buckle impact to the wrist is equally liable to fracture, deform or displace the delicate wrist carpal bones that articulate within very tight tolerances, thus degrading forever the wrist’s flexibility and range of motion. Caning the hands of a student, such that permanent bone injury and loss of flexibility to the hands results, would effectively END whatever aspirations the victim may have held of becoming a surgeon later in life. The disastrous effects of losing one’s sight or mobility to a caning incident would be no less life-destroying, and require no elaboration.
The injurious psychological effects, of exposing children to physical brutality in the name of discipline, can last a lifetime, but do also manifest behaviourally in the short term, as illustrated by the extremely high prevalence of school-yard bullying of juniors by senior students, whose own corporal punishment and physical torture by school authority figures imparts a misconception of normalcy to the use of violence as a tool to gain “respect” and the illusion of compliance. In nearby Ghana, by way of comparison, where all forms of corporal punishment have been outlawed for decades, school-yard bullying is virtually non-existent, while a very high level of orderliness and discipline is maintained in Ghanaian secondary schools, without any recourse to violence by school authorities. Unsurprisingly, the Ghanaian education system remains one of the best in Africa today, producing highly proficient graduates who are in great demand globally.
Governor Fashola’s administration has boldly righted a festering injustice that has for decades been perpetrated against Nigerian children enrolled in schools nationwide, as well as in places of trade apprenticeship. Once again, Governor Fashola lives up to his billing as a leader far ahead of his time, now by endorsing the imperative to safeguard the BASIC human rights of Nigeria’s most important citizens – her children. For the betterment of Nigerian youth enrolled in schools and workplaces across the entire federation, the stellar, inspirational example just set by Governor Fashola is one well worthy of emulation, as it stands to swiftly transform Nigeria’s primary and secondary educational systems for the infinitely better.
Striking any adult person with a stick or other weapon constitutes a violent criminal offence statutorily classified as Felony Assault and Battery, for which jail sentences can be imposed after a fair trial, under Nigerian law. On the unassailable premise that schools exist to prepare students for life as productive, civilized and peaceful citizens of law-abiding societies, that fundamental prohibition of violence against adults must be extended to govern all conduct towards children within schools and workplaces throughout any nation that embraces human rights for human beings of every age demographic.