Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on Thursday started hearing testimonies on the complaints of sexual abuse and corporal punishment at the privately-owned Kalibu Academy in Blantyre.
On the first day of the hearing at Golden Peacock Hotel in Blantyre, the commission heard from five witnesses who included three former students, a former teacher and a guardian.
Testimonies of the five dwelled on the corporal punishment at the school.
The witnesses claimed that the school gives harsh and unnecessary punishments to students who break school rules and regulations.
One of the witnesses, only identified as KA004, claimed there is a room at Kalibu Academy where school management puts the students who commit an offence. The witness said the victims are treated like prisoners.
“Teachers would beat you and sometimes you are told to dig a one metre by one metre pit or they will cane you,” said the witness.
On whether students were reporting the issues to the school administration, all three former students said they feared that doing so would lead to severe punishment.
At the start of the hearing, Kalibu Academy lawyer Noel Misanjo asked the commission to allow his clients to exercise their right to remain silent as witnesses gave their testimonies. He also said his clients were hearing most of the allegations for the first time.
MHRC commissioner Sunduzwayo Madise, who is chairing the inquiry, said the commission will parade one more witness who is based in South Africa.
He said the commission will later hear the defence’s submissions when they reconvene.
Besides Madise, other commissioners present were Chikondi Chijozi and Bertha Sefu as well as MHRC executive secretary Habiba Osman.
The public hearing follows allegations of child sexual abuse and corporal punishment at the school.
Meanwhile, Madise expressed displeasure with the absence of Kalibu Academy director Pastor Michael Howard at the hearing.
According to Kalibu Academy head teacher Pastor Paisley Mavutula, Howard was out of the country.
But Madise said the commission delivered the notice of public hearing to his school on April 2.
Hearing has since been adjourned.