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Corporal punishment

Corporal punishment in schools can take the form of hitting children with a hand or with a cane, burning or forcing them to sit for long periods in uncomfortable positions.

89 countries still permit teachers to physically punish children in their care. Even where corporal punishment is banned, laws protecting children are rarely enforced.

Boys are more often victims of school violence than girls. Children already discriminated against because of their disability, poverty, caste, class, ethnicity or sexuality are more likely to suffer corporal punishment than their peers.

Corporal punishment in schools is not regulated in developing countries. It is legal in France, Korea and a number of Australian and US states.

Poor excuses

Often defended in the name of tradition or religion or just because corporal punishment is supposed to improve children's behaviour, corporal punishment on the contrary tends to make children more violent and aggressive in later life.

The problems are compounded in countries where teachers lack training and motivation. In Ecuador, for example, many teachers are poorly paid and are not properly trained to handle classes. So they often resort to violent methods.

Long term consequences

Corporal punishment, at its extreme, can lead to physical injury and even death. In the short term, corporal punishment is linked to poor learning outcomes. Students in Belize stated that they cannot learn when there is the threat of being whipped. Children victims of corporal punishment at school are also more likely to drop out of school.

In the longer term, corporal punishment is associated with suicide, depression and problem-level drinking. Children who have been beaten and punished in this way are more likely to be aggressive in later life, eg assaulting spouses and using corporal punishment on their own children, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence.

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When the school year started, my father refused to provide my school dues. Since I did not have textbooks, I was beaten in front of others and driven away from school for one week. I was very ashamed and thought of leaving school.

Girl, 10 years old, Cameroon