On Monday, November 14th, the political parties contesting the elections signed on to an agreement to uphold the Rights of Children.
Rights of Children, it seems, is a nice, safe, neutral non-cussing out kind of activity in which all political parties could agree on. Except, of course, in all the rhetoric around the signing event as reported, no mention was made about the issue of beating children in schools.
Guyana , as was lauded by Prime Minister Hinds, has done better than many countries on ensuring of rights of children. However, at the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Guyana came in for criticism on the issue of beating children in schools. The next government is expected to move forward on these recommendations to ban the beating of children in schools.
It is not clear how the political parties feel about the issue of beating children in 2011 (we know how they feel about each other’s candidates).
In 2006, the AFC through Member of Parliament, Chantalle Smith, brought a motion to Parliament to ban corporal punishment and that motion got lost in one of the Parliamentary mechanisms – the new Education Bill .
It was reported informally that in the consultations on the new Education Act, the PPP/C said as a party they wanted to outlaw beating of children in schools. President Jagdeo has once or twice spoken against beating of children (though not as vehemently as he has been doing recently on other issues).
From APNU, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had signed a 2006 letter to the Members of Parliament to support the AFC motion. Dr Faith Harding from the PNCR, has in her professional work in Guyana, spoken out against beating children. However, the PNCR has never condemned the beating of children or committed to doing what the PPP did not want to do while it was in power- ban the beating of children in Guyana’s schools.
We have heard all of the arguments about how the children “bad” and will become more “bad” and how some of Guyana’s schools are war zones. Those stories, though, only serve to cover up the horrors of the brutality meted out on behalf of the state to the most vulnerable of Guyanese – children- especially young children.
There are stories of parents who are scared to report abuses; of abuses being reported and teachers being transferred. There are teachers who are trying alternatives (punishment) though they seem not to be getting the support needed for that change.
Monday’s signing event was an opportunity for all the political parties to commit to ensuring that children will not continue to be beaten in Guyana’s schools. It could be that some of the politicians believe that children should be beaten in the schools. It could be that some of them do not believe, but are scared of the teachers and parents and priests who believe that is okay to beat children.
Either way, it would be good to hear from those that signed on Monday whether they would push for that change in children’s lives or continue the legacy of violence inherited from those that sanctioned slavery.
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