According to the 2014 National Survey on Violence against Children in Nigeria, one out of every three children has experienced physical violence from their parents and teachers and have come to see this as normal. Although Nigeria was recently mentioned by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children as one of the “pathfinding countries” that have made commitments to ending violence against children, there is insufficient evidence in practice that indicates this commitment. For instance, certain sections of the Nigerian constitution such as article 295(4) of the Criminal Code (South) still legally allows the correction of children using force. This is in conflict with the 2003 Child Rights Act and undermine its implementation.
Further, although some teachers are aware of certain prohibitions to the use of corporal punishment in schools as contained in the 2003 Child Rights Act, corporal punishment is still an acceptable form of discipline used in schools in Nigeria.
Our E4P Schools Without Violence Campaign was launched in March 2019 within the context of the SDG 16.2 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children”, West Africa’s agenda for children as stipulated by the African Child Policy forum which focuses on fostering an Africa for children protected from all forms of violence and the Safe to Learn campaign by UNICEF which was introduced at the World Education Forum in January 2019.
The aim of our campaign is to tackle violence embedded in relations in schools in Nigeria applying an African-centred holistic approach. For teacher-student relations, our focus is on tackling violence against children embedded in the use of corporal punishment and for student-student relations, we are focused on tackling bullying and gender-based violence.
This campaign has two immediate components. The first component of the campaign is the online discussions and bi-monthly radio talks. Our aim with this is to transform norms beyond the borders of schools by pushing the conversation of effective positive discipline to replace the use of corporal punishment and beating of children in Nigeria. Our radio talks have focused on collecting information on the general perception about the use of corporal punishment in Nigeria, justifications presented for its use, discussions on alternative positive disciplinary methods and disseminating information on the 2003 Child Rights Act.
Findings from our radio talks revealed that although people are increasingly becoming more open to exploring positive nonviolent forms of discipline, corporal punishment is still generally not regarded as violence against children but rather backed up by the misinterpretation of religious texts such as “spare the rod and spoil the child”.
Also, over forty percent of those who contributed to our radio discussions conceptualised beating children as a “moral orthopaedics” responsible for moulding individuals into respectable adults. For instance, a female caller narrated an incident of how her father violently beat her and how this incident caused her to be more “obedient and responsible”. This is a very sad example of normalisation of violence interpreted as discipline. Moreover, positive nonviolent forms of discipline is generally perceived to be less effective in correcting children when compared to the use of physical corporal punishment. We are currently using these findings to shape other components of our campaign.
The second component of this campaign in schools is slated to kick off in September 2019 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. We will organise workshops with teachers on alternative positive forms of discipline, assist school authorities in creating child protection and safeguarding documents that clearly outline the difference between discipline and violence against children as well as organise masculinity sessions with boys in the school to encourage them to redefine their masculinity away from the use of violence and bullying.