Feb 01, 2012 Letters
I would like to refer to an article in Demerara Waves entitled “Teacher who badly flogged boy sent on leave”. The article raises two key issues; the public exposure of a vulnerable child, and the violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Both issues warrant the immediate and expressed attention of the government and members of the 10th Parliament of the National Assembly.
There is a fine line between corrective punishment and physical abuse and without a doubt, the teacher on this occasion crossed the line, acted irresponsibly and in doing so committed a criminal offence punishable by laws.
As a parent, I felt the pains for that young, vulnerable, unprotected boy who will have to carry those horrible scars for a lifetime and face bullying for the unwanted, buck naked exposed images of his scarred, bloody anatomy.
The editor of Demerara Waves in publishing that picture has also violated the child rights. As a 21st Century teacher, placing your hands on a child is a violation of their human rights, an offence punishable by law with severe long term consequences for any job prospect which involves working with or going near children.
In the United Kingdom, the teacher would be placed on the child protection register irrespective of the outcome of any investigation, and a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check involving any future job will sadly highlight the offence.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, on the occasion of the launch of the ‘Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children’ states, “I am particularly sensitive to the protection of the human rights of children, and the issue of corporal punishment is one of great importance to child rights”.
I am very supportive of this important initiative and it is my wish that the current Government, the Minister for Education, members of the National Assembly and the teaching profession of Guyana begin to engage or revisit the discourse on the abolition of corporal punishment in all schools, it is an abusive, cowardly, criminal act and a violation of the child rights.
More importantly, I believe that physical punishment is a practice that sends the wrong message to children. It usually demonstrates the inability of adults to educate, and when necessary, discipline children by other means such as dialogue and discussion.
It also shows adult ignorance of the capacity of children to understand and distinguish right from wrong, with proper guidance. The use of violence is a practice that can hamper the child’s development of his or her communication ability; it can encourage aggressive behaviour and can destroy the child’s self-confidence and internal value system.
Physical punishment generates a destructive relationship based on force, between the adult and the young person; a relationship that can hinder trust within the family.
Research shows that the use of physical punishment risks perpetuating the use of violence by successive generations. “The recourse to physical punishment by adults reflects a denial of the recognition, by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, of the child as a subject of human rights. If we want to remain faithful to the spirit of the Convention, strongly based on the dignity of the child as a fully-fledged bearer of rights, then any act of violence against him or her must be banned, in
accordance with articles 19 and 28.2 of the Convention”.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child offers valuable tools to combat the use of corporal punishment. It requires Governments to take all necessary legislative measures to prohibit all forms of violence.
“It also encourages Governments to take preventive action, including through human rights education and by creating an environment conducive to the administration of discipline ‘in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity’.
I also believe that in addition to legal prohibition, sensitization of all actors of society – in particular parents and teachers – the negative impact of physical violence is a key aspect of the process leading to a non-violent society. Violence should never be legitimized.
Physical punishment denies children their fundamental right to grow up to become capable of making a responsible contribution to a free society. Children and adolescents deserve better than to be beaten for their so-called errors or disobedience. They deserve constant and quality guidance and attention; creative and enriching dialogue; and stimulating and challenging education.
No form of violence, including physical, sexual or psychological, can ever be justified as being in the best interests of the child.
“I want to take this opportunity to warn that anyone breaching the rules will deal with (him or her) condignly,” and “I am very hurt that one of our children, who we should be looking after and taking care of, has been subjected to beyond normal punishment,” said Manickchand, a Caribbean-trained lawyer.
What do you mean. Honourable Minister, by ‘beyond normal punishment’? What does the rule state about corporal punishment in your schools? I am surprised by your language, Minister, as you reiterate, “this latest alleged incident should be used as a springboard to rekindle public debate and formal consultations on the thorny issue of corporal punishment”.
This statement left me confused, bemused and mystified with the use of the word ‘alleged’ when indeed, the scars from the blows inflicted on the boy with a piece of bamboo are crystal clear. This letter is not intended to apportion blame instead, it seeks to draw attention to the fact that (a) children have rights, (b) a violation of those rights is a criminal offence and (c) it is an opportune time to change the rule in our schools.
A lot of work is required at this juncture and at many levels in our society to combat child abuse. Since, the more I engaged with the incident, the more painful the hurt becomes to hear the mother of the boy saying, “I am not against getting him getting lashes but not so severe”. The key is education, let’s commence the debate.
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