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Oh no, dear Scribes, those Mbeya students were not ‘canned’: A tale of two Alberts

WHAT could be common between Mnali and Chalamila? At least three things.

One, both have worked, or are working in the Regional Administration Department of the President’s Office. Mr Mnali was once a District Commissioner (DC) for Bukoba, Kagera Region, and the other, Mr Chalamila is the current Regional Commissioner (RC) for Mbeya Region.

But, there is more to them. Both believe in flogging culprits and have practiced what they believe in at least two incidents that have been well-recorded.

Three, both are “Albert”. Albert Mnali and Albert Chalamila. Albert is a name for males and is of German origin meaning “noble, bright”. ... It became especially popular in the UK following the 1840 marriage of Queen Victoria to the German Prince Albert.

Albert Mnali, as DC of Bukoba District, had 19 teachers flogged in front of their students. This was on the 12th of February 2009. The flogged teachers were blamed for being late or not showing up for work and not teaching the official syllabus. Mr Mnali did not carry out the flogging himself, but had the police mete out the punishment.

This drew wrath from near and far, and Mr Mnali had to literally flee for his life from Bukoba. Little is heard of him these days. On 4th October 2019, Mr Chalamila (the other Albert) as RC for Mbeya, made international news, when he flogged fourteen Kiwanja Secondary School students accused of owning mobile phones and torching two dormitories.

Unlike Mr Mnali, Mr Chalamila got the support of the President, as is reported in a front page news item titled: “Toughen Flogging Law” (The Good Citizen on Sunday, 5 October). When translating what the President said, from Swahili to English, writers used a word they should not have used: the verb “to can”.

They reported the President as saying: “If at all we erred………..we were ‘canned’ by teachers whenever we broke school rules. Even in Europe, stubborn students are punished”. After all, whose saying of the wise is this: “Spare the rod, spoil the child”? But were we “canned” really? How come we are still alive?

The writers believe in the correctness of the use of the verb “to can” as they report the President to have said further: “……..I commend him (The RC) for ‘canning’ the students because their behavior is unacceptable”.

One commentator is reported to have said that the RC who “canned” the students wanted to make a lasting impression so that these, and others of their ilk, do not carry out actions of arson in future. Corporal punishment is allowed in Tanzania and there are Guidelines on how this should be carried out and by whom.

This is in accordance to the Education Act and the Education Circular Number 24 of 2002. Clearly, the Guidelines do not allow “canning; they allow “caning”. Caning must be done properly to avoid serious injury to whoever is being caned (not canned). This is because sometimes things can, and have been known to awfully, go wrong.

“To can” means to preserve food in a metal container by storing it without air. Fish, meat, fruits and what have you, can be canned; not human beings. Sometimes, the word “to tin” is used. I used to love tinned salmon. On the other hand, “to cane” means to punish a child in school by hitting them with a stick.

However, as we have seen above, teachers can be caned as well. A court can also mete out caning as a punishment and this can be carried out in places other than a school. Alternative words that can be used instead of “caning” are “flogging” and “whipping”. This means: “To can or to cane” should really not be the question.

It is “to cane”. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passing on of Mwalimu Nyerere on 14th October, we are reminded that he once flogged young people who later on became key figures in government and politics in the Country.

Students are reminded that they go to school to acquire knowledge which should be useful to society. Actions of sabotage, and particularly arson should be avoided, whatever the grievances.

lusuggakironde@gmail.com

THERE are a lot of lessons that can ...

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Author: Lusuga Kironde

2 Comments

  • avatar
    Ferdi
    12/10/2019

    Whatever one might call it, it is a very primitive way of punishing a student. You can not do it in some countries like Australia as it is considered child abuse. You are likely to end up in court. RC flogging kids, lack of clear duty statement, for me abolish the position. Bongo is over governed.

  • avatar
    Ferdi
    12/10/2019

    So what happens if a child dies in the process of being physically abused - would this be a state sanctioned murder? Are there are no children courts to sort out this? Am horrified and traumatised reading this. There are other ways of punishing kids. Recorded criminal offence means they will not be able to get employed or get a visa to travel to some countries. Come on guys!!

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