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Whip not the weeping child

Children at the event

By Japhet  Alakam

The high rate of child abuse and corporal punishment in the country has been attributed to lack of awareness on the part of the government, parents, guardians and teachers. Despite the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, many States and not only in Africa still use corporal punishment as the only way to disciplining children.

Studies conducted by UN Study on Violence Against Children show that children and youths are still subjected to punishments such as beatings with sticks, whips or belts. Irrespective of the physical and psychological injuries of these methods of discipline on the child, the lasting damage these punishments inflict are well known.

There is therefore the need to create the necessary awareness towards addressing this ugly trend, and it was on the basis of this that an exposition was put up recently by  Goethe Institut Nigeria in collaboration with African Artists Foundation, AAF titled Whip Not Child- an exhibition of paintings, photographs, video documentary and spoken words that address issues relating to child abuse.

The project which was initiated by German based painter, Chidi Kwubiri and Mike Omoighe an artist/painter and the Dean, Students Affairs, Yaba College of Technology, also featured Felicia Inyang, Ade Bantu and Uche James Iroha. The artists combined art, documentation, culture and social awareness with focus on educational practices in schools and children’s homes to finding out their views through artistic expressions as well as works of their own on the topic of corporal punishment and child abuse.

Using an artistic approach to showcase the dilemma of the Nigerian child, the facilitators of the programme Chidi Kwubiri and Mike Omoighe organised workshops in different schools in Lagos, where they created a forum to deal with the topic. The workshop took place in four locations in Lagos: Yaba, Ilupeju, Isolo and Ajegunle, and over more than 120 students  participated.

The first point of call was the YabaTech Staff Primary School, Yaba. where, Mr Omoighe, one of the facilitators told the press that the workshop started by seizing all the canes from the teachers and later the children were told to tell their parents to bring all the canes they used at home to school and majority of them came with theirs.

At the school, the children were seen drawing all forms of objects used by their parents and teachers in whipping them. There  drew and painted canes, belts, Koboko, slippers among other items of infliction of pain. In an interactive session with the students, they strongly condemned the use of such harmful items and  rather preferred other forms of punishment like been told to kneel down, denials of watching favorite TV programmes, going out or late eating of meals.

Commenting on the project, Mr Omoighe who was in charge of the school said that the project, Whip Not Child is all about the psychological preparation of a child towards building a greater nation. According to him “research has shown that every child that is abused is really not a friend of that environment and so, you find out that in most cases when we start canning our children, we are preparing them for adulthood and when they grow up, simply that was what they know because that was what they were trained with. You have a situation where they also go on to start abusing other people because the society already created that. So we are trying to work on this project towards having a better environment.”

Continuing he added that“we have cases of people rising against child abuse and in most cases they talk about hawking or sending children on errands across the streets, but this is the first time that I am aware of people trying to address the issue of canning because in most cases the child abuse does not end in either street trading or hawking.”

At St Pauls Anglican Primary School, Ishaga Isolo one of the facilitators, German based Chidi Kwubiri who was dressed in the same school uniform like the pupils took the press round the classroom. There, the kids were busy with the paintings of different sizes of canes under his supervision and they were happy at that. While interacting with the kids on the topic , they said that canning is very bad and painful and inflicts injures on their body. Some of them even showed some scars inflicted on them by their parents. And when asked the way out since they are bound to misbehave, they said they prefer other forms of discipline like denying them what they like, separating them from the company of their friends, told to kneel down, denial of gifts, denial of pocket money and others.

Commenting on the project, artist/painter Chimdi Kwubiri who said that this is his third exhibition in Nigeria pointed out that “ the essence of the project is to deepen the topic, Whip Not Child.

“ what we have done so far is to paint and draw the materials used to cane the children like cutlass, cane, belt , brooms, knife, pepper etc. The students have spoken that this is not the best way to bring up a child and it is just part of the campaign. We are just trying to change the scenario.” he said adding that “A child ought to be disciplined when he/she does something wrong, but it depends on the method of discipline. Whipping a child brings no change, you are only trying to inflict injuries and hatred on the child while you can equally achieve the same goal when you talk or dialogue. When talking or dialogue does not work, you have to look for other means of punishment. You can tell a child not to watch his/her favourite TV programme for a week or he/she is not going to see the favourite friends or go out to play for some days because of what he/she has done wrong.”

At the end of the series of workshops, an exhibition was held at the Lagos Civic Centre on Saturday 27th February 2010 where selected works of about 150 children , a video documentation by Felicai Inyang Ema, photographs as captured by the lens of James Iroha were displayed.

also expressed themselves through spoken word, music and photography. There were also artworks by Chidi Kwubiri and Mike Omoighe on their experiences and impressions of the issue. On Monday, the exposition moved to African Artists Foundation and it ended on March 8th 2010. The next phase of the exposition will be an exposition of the works in German later in the year.


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