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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  2004   :  GY Schools Mar 2004

-- THE ARCHIVE --


GUYANA

School CP - March 2004



Corpun file 13015

masthead
Stabroek News, Georgetown, 6 March 2004

St Margaret's teacher 'sternly warned' for beating pupil

The Ministry of Education has sternly warned the St Margaret's Primary School teacher who administered corporal punishment repeatedly to a six-year-old pupil.

According to a letter written to the child's father, Dr Anwar Hussain, by the Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, the education ministry has concluded after an investigation that Dr Hussain's allegations of corporal punishment being inflicted on his son are justified.

"The teacher involved has been written to and sternly warned. The head teacher was also written to and reminded that she was accountable for the actions of all teachers. The Teaching Service Commission was also apprised of the ministry's findings," the letter said.

But Dr Hussain, who complained that his son was beaten on numerous occasions, said yesterday that he has written again to Caesar as his child continues to be victimised by the class teacher.

Stabroek News also contacted the school's head teacher, Ellis Crandon, who had initially told this newspaper that there was no evidence to support Dr Hussain's allegations of corporal punishment administered by class teacher, Ann Adams. Yesterday she had nothing to say on the findings.

Caesar also apologised to Dr Hussain for not acknowledging the receipt of several letters he had written on the issue.

"As you are aware, I did arrange for an investigation into the concerns expressed by you," Caesar said.

He added that the Assistant Chief Education Officer of Georgetown was advised to closely monitor the management practices of St Margaret's.

The letter further stated that the ministry wanted to see established, and nurtured, good relationships between parents and teachers. The letter said in fact the 'School Improvement Planning' seeks to involve parents and the immediate school community in the future development of their respective schools.

"It was therefore quite disturbing when your concerns could not have been resolved promptly at the level of the school. The ministry regrets this."

Caesar told Dr Hussain that he is convinced that normalcy has been restored in relation to the allegations and observations that he has made.

Dr Hussain was advised that should he have any further concerns that cannot be resolved at the school level, to raise them with the Georgetown Assistant Chief Education Officer, who is directly in charge of the schools in Georgetown.

At a press conference on Thursday, Caesar had stated that his ministry does not support corporal punishment in school.



Corpun file 13014

masthead
Stabroek News, Georgetown, 12 March 2004

Editorial

Corporal punishment in schools

We have now carried two reports on the case of a boy attending the New Comenius Primary School who had his arm broken last November, allegedly by his class teacher. She was reported to have used a piece of wood from a broken chair with which to beat eight-year-old Joel Punch, after he had chased one of his school mates around the yard for taking his pencil. If that were not bad enough, in the space of more than three months, the Ministry of Education appears to have done nothing about the matter, although the boy's grandmother, Ms Doreen McPherson, told this newspaper that she had been informed that an investigation was under way.

In a better publicized case involving Dr Anwar Hussain's six-year-old son, who was repeatedly administered corporal punishment by a teacher at St Margaret's Primary, the Ministry did eventually take action, albeit not very strong action, and the teacher was sent a letter and warned. The headmistress was also advised that she was accountable for the actions of all members of her teaching staff.

That notwithstanding, Dr Hussain has gone on record as saying that he had written again to Chief Education Officer Ed Caesar complaining that his son continued to be victimized by his class teacher.

Ms McPherson has expressed the view that the "pussyfooting" on the part of the authorities in her case is because she is poor, and that had the child involved come from a family which was better heeled, something would have been done. However, as Dr Hussain's example demonstrates, even if you are well known, it is an uphill task getting the Ministry of Education to move in matters of classroom child abuse. The doctor wrote several letters to the Ministry which were not acknowledged before action was finally taken, although in fairness, Mr Caesar did eventually apologize for this dereliction.

At a press conference held on March 4, the Chief Education Officer told the media that the Ministry of Education does not support corporal punishment. This is something of a revelation considering the dilatory response of his officers to the Joel Punch case, which by anyone's standards constitutes cruelty to a child. Furthermore, this newspaper has been unable to elicit any response from officialdom about the matter, while the school has simply referred us back to the Ministry, because the staff at New Comenius are not allowed to comment.

Corporal punishment is allowed in Guyana's schools, although there are regulations about who may administer it, and under what circumstances it may be administered. Needless to say, the regulations are flouted on perhaps a daily basis. Furthermore, in the Common Entrance classes of the primary schools in particular, parents are often afraid to come forward and complain about teachers' abuse, in case their child is victimised and will not be given the attention necessary to pass the exam. It has to be added, that given the culture in which we operate, many parents do not see any problem in teachers beating children, and so our educators feel safe in continuing to act with impunity.

While our regulations on corporal punishment in schools are probably not out of sync with the culture in a general sense, they are out of kilter with the international declarations on the subject to which this country is signatory. Minister Bibi Shadick found this out to her cost at an international conference recently. Quite clearly, since the schools have demonstrated themselves to be totally incapable of even applying the regulations as they stand, it is time that the Ministry of Education took a decision to ban the use of corporal punishment in schools altogether. This could be approached on a phased basis. Although there is only anecdotal evidence to go on, it seems that the most frequent victims are the younger children - in other words those most vulnerable and least in need of heavy-handed disciplinary methods.

We challenge the Ministry of Education, therefore, to ban all corporal punishment of children aged eleven and under in the first instance, and to act with some energy to ensure that the new rules are enforced - as opposed to their traditional laissez-faire attitude to the enforcement of the old ones. In the meantime, it is incumbent on the powers-that-be in Brickdam to make some statement about what action they intend to take in the Joel Punch case; their handling of this matter has been nothing short of disgraceful.



Corpun file 13012

masthead
Stabroek News, Georgetown, 16 March 2004

Letters to the Editor

Minister should clarify declaration she signed on corporal punishment

Dear Editor,

Your editorial, "Corporal punishment in schools," (Friday, March 12) calling for a ban on corporal punishment in Guyana's schools is bold, informative and raises questions.

Bold because, traditionally, corporal punishment in Guyana's schools has been acceptable as a form of discipline to punish children for a variety of well-known reasons. To abolish it, therefore, would require a reality check into what we may be trying to correct or avoid, and what may even be at stake in the long run; not just what is now considered politically correct.

Which brings me to the next two points of your editorial as being informative and raising questions. Your editorial states that Minister Bibi Shadick, representing the government at an international conference, signed off on a declaration banishing corporal punishment in schools. Was it mandatory for her to do so? Is government now required to pass legislation banning corporal punishment in schools as a result of her signature on that declaration, or is it optional and left to the discretion of educators and parents?

Then in your closing paragraph, you advocated a "ban on all corporal punishment of children aged eleven and under..." But does this mean you are sold on the idea of corporal punishment of students aged twelve and over? Please, do clarify the specificity of this age issue.

I previously stated in another forum that I am against children being beaten for getting a wrong answer in the classroom or, if I might now add, even failing a test, but still want to know what punitive action is recommended for children who deliberately break school rules, or even the law? "Licks" was supposed to both punish us for some infraction at the time of being punished and, somehow, forewarn us of the punishments ahead in life when we fail or mess up.

As a student at Central High, in Georgetown, in the early seventies, I once got caned by the late Rudy Luck for telling a white Canadian teacher, "Good riddance," after I learned she was returning to Canada. I truly felt she hated me, though I might have misinterpreted her attitude, but I was insubordinate, and I learned from that caning there is a price to pay for insubordination to those in authority, even though as an adult it may not be for corporal punishment.

Later on, as a student at Kara Kara High, in Linden, I sometimes saw the principal, the late Eddie London, (formerly of QC) standing at the school's gate or walking down the street, cane in hand, beating children for being late for school. His method or tactic might be suspect, but the principle I learned from that was, in adult life, there is a price one can pay for being late.

And even though I understood why teachers did beat students for getting wrong answers, I never understood why teachers expected students to use their hands to write after they were beaten sore in the opened palms. Nor why teachers expected students to sit comfortably and concentrate in class after being whipped sore on the butt.

Glad to say, but in my school days, I never heard of a teacher physically abusing a student, and now wonder whether the reported physical abuse by teachers of students is not giving value-added credence to the call for banishment of corporal punishment. But has any thought been given to a law banning physical abuse of children by parents and teachers, but not the banning of corporal punishment entirely?

The only downside I can see to this call for banning corporal punishment in school is the likelihood of children interpreting this ban as a sort of carte blanche for them to do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it in school, knowing no one, according to law, can physically discipline them.

As I close, I wonder whether Minister Shadick can say if the international declaration she signed at the conference limits banning corporal punishment to schools, or is it also applicable to parents, as is the case in the United States where no teacher or parent can physically discipline a student/child?

If it affects parents too, then I have a mixture of tales I could share on the state of some schools and families in New York where, while some parents and their children are doing well in the absence of corporal punishment at home and schools, this absence is also known to be putting a rather huge strain on society, from peers to teachers to parents to adults to the police to the courts to the politicians.

Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin,

Editor's note:

Minister Bibi Shadick did not sign off on a ban on corporal punishment. This country is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and at the 35th session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which was held in Geneva recently, it was recommended (among other things) that Guyana should expressly prohibit corporal punishment by law in the family, schools and other institutions. Minister Shadick was Guyana's representative at that meeting.

We are not sold on the idea of corporal punishment for secondary school-age pupils. It is just that given the culture, which is out of harmony with UN sentiment, and the absence of disciplinary alternatives in the education system, it might be more practical to take a phased approach, beginning with the younger children who are the ones most vulnerable to abuse.



Corpun file 13972

Guyana Chronicle, Georgetown, 24 March 2004

Here is what they're saying

Corporal punishment

The incident at the Lodge Community High School (LCHS) in which a student struck a teacher on his head causing a fractured skull has led to protest action by the teachers of the school.

Minister of Education Dr. Henry Jeffrey later said the security of teachers will be addressed.

He also noted that the Ministry has a manual for discipline in schools. He believes that if this is used, problems of indiscipline will be reduced.

The manual states that corporal punishment should be a last resort as a means of disciplining a student. And when this has to be done, the Head teacher should perform the act minimally.

It also states that students may be suspended and recommendations for suspension may be made.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) asked members of the public what they thought of corporal punishment implemented in schools.

Here is what they are saying:

Berkley Bristol: I think that corporal punishment should be re-introduced in schools. At the moment there is chaos in the schools and students wanting to do their own thing. Students would feel that they can no longer be punished by teachers and do what they want to and so on. Hence, they would lose respect and regard for teachers.

Sabrina Sattaur: As a teacher it is very difficult because you find that children get out of hand and when you try to discipline them parents keep coming to you. I think that corporal punishment should be brought back into schools, because punishment is not allowed in schools and children are behaving worse than they used to be.

Neil Khan: Right now they are not being disciplined enough considering what happened when I use to go to school. You have students talking back to teachers and being rude. And apart from that some of the teachers are looking like students, so they cannot decide who is who sometimes, thereby causing the "eye pass." In some cases teachers don't have the physical structure to deal with these students. In my time they had 'strapping teachers' and you couldn't think about giving them rudeness.

I think they have to re-introduce corporal punishment in the school because the young people have no respect for their elders and they need to bring back punishment to tighten up the schools. And I think they need to bring it back now, because if they wait too long it will definitely get out of control. It would end up like North America.

Michael Drepaul: I think they need to discipline children. However, in some cases teachers go overboard, but at the same time students need to be disciplined but teachers have to do it in the right way.

Lavern Ross: If a child does something in school and it gets out of hand as a teacher you have to discipline him. But I think the teacher should call in the parents and have some kind of meeting and work something out.

Terrence Drepaul: I think that students should be disciplined, but I don't think that the teachers should beat them at their whims and fancies for wrong answers. But I think if children are in violation of the school rules they should definitely be disciplined. If not we will have anarchy in this country and we are already seeing it.

Ann Pollydore: In the years gone by children used to be punished in many ways, but now the parents have caused a lot of what is happening in the school today. In many cases the parents want to go into the school and attack the teachers. Notwithstanding, they have teachers who have problems and want to take it out on the children. But I am in agreement to discipline students in schools. Now look at that incident with the Lodge student. I believe that the mother should have taken the son to the Ministry of Education or the Police Station. He did something wrong, and I do not think that the mother should be hiding the child. If you do not punish them you will get a generation of criminals.

Rosalyn Crandon: The children are getting out of hand and I think corporal punishment is the way to control these children, so that we can get a better generation of children.



blob Follow-up: 16 April 2004 - A manual of guidelines for the maintenance of discipline has been distributed to all schools



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