The schools and corporal punishment
The issue of corporal punishment in schools will be ongoing for some time. There will always be those who are opposed and those who hold the view that corporal punishment is one way of keeping errant children in line.
The Rights of the Child Commission feels that children should be treated in a manner that would enable them to become law abiding adults who would shun violence. It holds the view that children who suffer corporal punishment are abused and would grow up to become abusers.
There was no scientific study although there has been some evidence to show that a child who grows in an abusive situation would turn to abuse as a first resort. Social scientists believe that the child contained a lot of anger and his response to the situation is to let the anger out.
However, there are those who would testify to being whipped but who never the less turned out to be great people. Some would testify that the punishment kept them in line and yet others would say that the fear of corporal punishment kept them from turning to a life of crime.
The Education Ministry has been seeking the views of the public on corporal punishment for some time. And even before these views were totally ventilated the Ministry of Education modified its policy on corporal punishment. In fact, there was really no policy until then. Children were flogged by just about any teacher.
There were modifications as the society evolved males were not allowed to flog female students. The modifications instituted by the Education Ministry and made policy were that the head of the school and the deputy were the only people to administer corporal punishment. However, these were permitted to assign such a task to a senior teacher who must then perform the act in the presence of one or both of these senior teachers.
The past few weeks saw the Education Ministry traveling to Berbice to canvas the views of parents and teachers on corporal punishment. The overwhelming majority favoured corporal punishment. The people in this group concluded that the absence of corporal punishment has led to children being irascible and often to display anti social behaviour because they felt that there was no sanction to cause them any worry.
Guyana has been known to look to other countries for the lead in certain cases. The fact that the country may soon decriminalize same sex unions is due largely to the fact that the United States and Britain and other leading countries in the world seem to be heading in that direction.
Guyana has put a moratorium on the death penalty because there are countries with which it is affiliated that have suggested that there be the abolishment of the death policy. Indeed the politicians have said repeatedly that the death penalty will remain.
The developed world has been experimenting with discarding corporal punishment. The United States was one such even though the police saw no problem with visiting social deviants with brutality often reserved for times long past.
And so Guyana decided to experiment with the abolition of corporal punishment in schools. The authorities spoke of the various conventions to which Guyana is a signatory. Now we find that overwhelmingly, parents insist that corporal punishment be retained. They are however saying that the punishment should be devoid of cruelty.
And indeed, many parents were turned off with the level of corporal punishment because their children came home with severe marks of violence on parts of their bodies that should not have been touched. They all say that a few strokes appropriately placed would be tolerated.
There are scarcely any male teachers in the schools these days; the result is that the female teachers would have a torrid time administering corporal punishment to the teenage boys. Indeed, some other form of punishment would have to be administered. Suffice it to say that the United States is reviewing its policy toward corporal punishment. Some states have reintroduced it and we are most likely going to follow.
The reality of punishment is that those who are inclined to slip but who are afraid of physical punishment would think twice. And in any case, corporal punishment is not applied in isolation but more often as a last resort.