The Teaching Service Commission yesterday reinstated the Berbice High School teacher accused of flogging a large group of third form students in direct contravention of regulations.
Jeanne Jeffrey, who has been off the job for almost three weeks, became the center of an investigation after she administered three lashes each to 28 of the 31 children in the class.
The situation came about after the teacher handed out an assignment to the class on January 29th. The task should have been completed by February 5 but only a few students met the deadline.
The teacher then administered the flogging, breaking the rule set by the Ministry of Education as it relates to corporal punishment for students. The Ministry had distributed a document entitled ‘Maintenance of Order and Discipline in Schools/Alternative Forms of Punishment’. This document categorically states, inter alia, that only a head teacher can administer corporal punishment to students, or can identify a senior teacher to so administer same in his or her presence.
After the flogging incident someone called in on a local television programme and highlighted the incident.
The next day officials from the Department of Education sent the teacher on leave – that was three Fridays ago. Yesterday, Region Six Education Officer Shafiran Bhajan was out of the region and could not be contacted for comment.
When the administration of the Berbice High School was contacted, they declined to disclose any information.
According to a source, Jeanne Jeffrey was subpoenaed on Friday last to appear before the Discipline Committee for a hearing on Wednesday in relation to the complaint filed against her.
The hearing for the corporal punishment matter was held at the Teaching Service Commission’s Office in Georgetown.
At that hearing, the teacher was given the privilege of taking along a representative of her choice.
She selected Annabel Ramnarine, a senior teacher of the said Berbice High School.
The Discipline Committee comprised four persons, which included the Chairman of Teaching Service Commission, Leila Ramson, and was headed by Olga Britton.
Also attending the hearing were the Region Six Education Officer Shafiran Bhajan, Head Teacher of the Berbice High School Jennifer Rawlins and Deputy Head Teacher Tracey Heyliger, Administrative Officer of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, Lancelot Baptiste, President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union Colwyn King and the Regional Vice-President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, Colin Bynoe.
During the process, Jeanne Jeffrey was questioned in detail about the incident, as were the Head Teacher and the Deputy Head Teacher. Colwyn King was not allowed to speak.
Meanwhile, last Monday, Regional Vice President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, Colin Bynoe, called on the Education Ministry to make some changes in the system in order to better prepare secondary school students.
The Union representative posited that there is need for a comprehensive study as it relates to the behavioral pattern and the misdemeanor practices of students in secondary schools.
This, he said, would determine the rate at which indiscipline occurs and to identify alternative forms of punishment instead of corporal punishment. “Individual teachers would require special training in counseling. Counseling is an area that is not easy. It calls for high levels of confidentiality, patience, running of background checks of clients and putting all of this together in order to determine their behaviour pattern.”
He also indicated that the whole idea of counseling is a time consuming one, which if left to the subject teachers would take away from curriculum delivery.
He also noted the need for a separate department in secondary schools to deal specifically with misdemeanors. This, he said, would reduce the disturbance of the curriculum delivery at the institutions.
Though many parents acknowledged that the teacher did flout the rules, they agreed that she did so with the best interest of the children at heart.
Last Friday some parents halted classes with protest action against the failure of Minister of Education Shaik Baksh to reinstate the teacher.
Baksh had made the decision not to reinstate the female teacher, saying only the Teaching Service Commission can so do.
In her absence many students had been without a subject teacher. She teaches Social Studies, Home Management, English ‘A’ and Reading. She lectures three second forms, one fourth form, one fifth form and all of the third forms. She is the only reading teacher for the third form level and also designed the programme. (Melissa Johnson)
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