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School CP - April 2004

Corpun file 13601


Stabroek News, Georgetown, 16 April 2004

A manual of guidelines for the maintenance of discipline has been distributed to all schools

Dear Editor,

In response to a letter in Stabroek News dealing with corporal punishment in schools I wish to inform you that the issue of school discipline was only recently reviewed and reformed and the current "Manual of Guidelines for the Maintenance of Order and Discipline in Schools" was completed in February 2002 and distributed to all schools.

This action was taken after inquiries revealed that some Heads and Teachers of schools were breaching the regulations under which corporal punishment should be administered and were unable to give a valid explanation for these breaches. Some teachers misused this form of punishment and this sometimes resulted in serious injuries.

Furthermore, the view was posited that corporal punishment has led to alienation at all levels in schools. This situation has manifested itself in children developing a dislike for the subject, teacher and school and often leads to poor students' performance, personal attacks on teachers, truancy and school dropouts, etc.

The Manual suggested many alternative approaches to dealing with indiscipline in schools. These include:

* The provision of counselling by the school's authorities.

* The encouragement of peer counselling and the establishment of student government.

* Organizing of field trips for students to correctional facilities.

* Institution of cost recovery for loss or damage to property by students.

* Provide incentives for acceptable behaviour and commend acceptable actions so that students and parents may be aware.

* Provide parenting sessions; make parents more legally responsible for unacceptable behaviour and send them warning letters about their child's indiscipline.

* Organize special PTA meetings to deal with indiscipline.

* Teach children and teachers about the rights of the children.

* Detain defaulters to do productive work.

Several other sanctions were suggested for children who committed major offences such as refusing to obey legitimate instruction from a teacher, fighting, wounding, assaulting teachers, selling or using narcotic substances, indecent assault, language and behaviour, unpunctuality, and bullying. The range of punishments for these offences includes detention, community service, corporal punishment, suspension, expulsion and referral to the law.

The discourse about the appropriateness of corporal punishment will no doubt continue for some time. After careful consideration we have decided not to abolish but to restrict its use as follows.

* For serious or repeated offences only, corporal punishment may be administered by the head teacher or by an assistant teacher, over twenty (20) years of age, authorized by him.

* Whenever a head teacher authorizes an assistant teacher to administer corporal punishment, it shall be administered in the presence of the head teacher and under his direction and his responsibility.

* Corporal punishment for girls shall be administered by a female teacher or by the head teacher in the presence of a female teacher.

* Whenever Corporal punishment is administered, an entry shall be made on the same day in the punishment book, with a statement of the nature and extent of the punishment and the reason for inflicting it.

We believe that if head teachers insist upon its proper implementation corporal punishment would only be used when absolutely necessary and rarely.

However, in terms of abolition we remain open to the new contentions.

As school administrators address the issue of school violence and indiscipline, they are constantly reminded that in some cases they are dealing with student and family problems that are beyond their ability to control or manage. Thus, it is essential for society to recognize that it is not the sole responsibility of teachers and schools to ensure that children adhere to rules and discipline. Parents must do their part and instil the correct values and discipline in their children.

It is also important to recognize that any given school is reflective of the community in which it is located; that the school can only operate successfully with the support of the local community and parents. The school's climate is critical to its successful operation and the principal and teachers are key players, but can only be as effective as the relationships with children and their families will allow.

Whilst cultural change takes considerable time, it should also be recognized that preventative strategies work best only when the dynamics of change are working simultaneously across all levels of the community. A goal of the Ministry of Education is to develop strategies that will reduce acts of student violence and indiscipline and thus provide an appropriate learning environment.

Yours faithfully,

Caroline Kennedy
Communications Specialist
Ministry Of Education

Stabroek News

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