The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says 85 per cent of Nigerian children between the ages of 1 and 14 experience violent discipline in schools, with nearly 1 in 3 children experiencing severe physical punishment.

UNICEF Chief of Education, Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday, at a two-day National Awareness Creation Meeting on Ending Corporal Punishment in schools, organised by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN, in collaboration with UNICEF.

Panday-Soobrayan described the discussion on ending corporal punishment in schools as “difficult and heart-breaking,” stating however that the presence of participants at the meeting was a testament to Nigeria’s determination to uphold every child’s right to safety, well-being and quality, inclusive education.

“Yesterday we confronted the harrowing reality that 85% of children between the
ages of 1 and 14 in Nigeria experience violent discipline, with nearly 1 in 3 children experiencing severe physical punishment. This is a staggering statistic colleagues one that demands urgent action and is indicative of a crisis!

“Much of this violent discipline takes place in the form of corporal punishment in the very institutions that are entrusted to keep children safe, develop respect for human rights and prepare them for life in a society that promotes understanding peace, and conflict resolution through dialogue,” she said.

According to her, the persistence of these practices contradicts Nigeria’s National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence-Free Schools, that commits to zero-tolerance to any threat to the security of life and property in schools.

Panday-Soobrayan also noted that the practice “stalling Nigeria’s progress toward SDG 3 to ensure good health and well-being, SDG 4 on equitable andinclusive quality education and target 16.2 (to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children).”

While noting the impact of corporal punishment on children is devastating, she said children are left with both physical and psychological wounds.

She further stated that “physical punishment causes not only pain, sadness, fear, sharme, and
anger but is also linked with children’s hyperreactivity to stress, changes in brain structure and function, and overloaded nervous, cardiovascular, and nutritional systems. Spanking, just like more severe abuse, is linked to atypical brain function.”

“The damage is not only acute, affecting their learning in the current moment, but also chronic. A large body of research links physical punishment with long-term disability or death; mental ill-health; impaired cognitive and socio-emotional development; school dropout and poorer academic and occupational outcomes; increased antisocial behaviour, aggression, and criminal behaviour in adulthood; and damaged relationships through its intergenerational transmission.”

Also speaking, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, represented by Hajia Binta Abdulkadir,
endorsed the action plan and
roadmap for ending corporal punishment in schools in line with the Child’s Rights Act passed into law in 2003, protecting children’s right to a life free of violence.

Adamu noted that globally, there is evidence indicating that corporal
punishment in schools have impacted negatively on attendance and learning
and outcomes.

“In Nigeria, studies have indicated that corporal punishment is one of the
key factors militating against retention and transition of pupils in our schools which have huge implications on the educational system and achievement of the Sustainable development goal 4,” he said.

Earlier, the Registrar of TRCN, Prof Josiah Ajiboye, Globally, there is a paradigm shift from corporal punishment in schools because of its effect on pupils, adding that practice has been proven to be ineffective, dangerous and an
unacceptable method of controlling and maintaining behavior and discipline.

Ajiboye said corporal punishment brings negative rather than positive consequences in the whole
process of teaching and learning.

“It tends to increase child aggression and antisocial behavior, lower intellectual achievements, enhance poor quality of parent/teacher student relation and cause mental health problems. Since corporal
punishment tend to de-humanize children and make them feel scared, ashamed and worthless during learning and teaching process, the time has come for it to be eliminated from both homes and schools so as to enhance positive learning.

“It is our desire that children’s learning experience should always be positive, and never traumatic. With enthusiasm I appreciates representatives of FME, NUT, CSOs and all Education stakeholders for their dedication in endorsing Safe to Learn initiative geared towards ending violence in and through schools,” he said.

He said the meeting was organised to share and discuss evidence on the negative impact of corporal punishment on children and learning outcomes, well as discuss and agree on a set of national and state specific strategies/interventions for ending corporal punishment in schools in

The meeting was also aimed at developing an action plan on road map for ending corporal punishment in schools with the aim of substantially and systematically reduce dropout rates and increase transition and completion of children in schools.

“Learning and safety can no longer be thought of as separate entities. As decision makers around the world look to respond to the compounding crises or the pandemic, conflict, climate and poverty, safe education must be at the heart of our efforts to build back better and safer for children,” he said.

The TRCN boss noted however that more effort needs to be made to educate parents and teachers on the implication of corporal punishment as well as the alternatives that are available to them, noting that good school discipline depends not only on non-violent responses to poor student behavior, but on skilled and properly trained teachers.

On his part, the World Bank Senior Education Specialist, Prof Tunde Adekola, said the global bank believes there is a correlation between learning poverty and corporal punishment, while stressing the urgency of implementing the action plan against corporal punishment in schools.

Adekola also called for a coalition of stakeholders from the states and local governments as well as non-state actors, civil society organisations, and others to implement action against corporal punishment.

He added that the action plan being developed should have a baseline, verifiable and clear definition of roles to be able to measure the success of implementation.