If moves are made to review how education is delivered, particularly in the public education system, the issue of corporal punishment is not likely to be brought into question. This is the observation of Chief Executive Officer [CEO] of the Rights of the Child Commission [RCC], Mr. Amarnauth Panday.
Panday’s disclosure in this regard was forthcoming when questioned about the usage of corporal punishment in the school system.
Although over the years the debate has been fierce both for and against the use of corporal in the school system, Panday insisted that since the RCC subscribes to the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] it cannot support a move that will infringe on the rights of children. “We are opposed to the usage of corporal punishment in all its forms,” insisted the RCC CEO even as he urged that other measures be implemented as an alternative to corporal punishment.
“Alternative means of discipline could be contemplated and exercised that could see children being disciplined in a non-violent way,” Panday insisted.
The reduction of class sizes has been recommended by the RCC to ensure that non-violent approaches to discipline could be utilised. According Panday this recommendation was made to the previous Minister of Education but the RCC is still waiting to see it seriously implemented across the public education system.
“There are some schools you go to and there are classes of 50 and 60 students with one teacher discharging education, monitoring and disciplining and everything…that is a recipe for disaster because it would be insurmountable to try to maintain discipline in a situation like that,” Panday considered.
He continued, “If you have a situation where the class is much smaller, it would be much easier for the teacher to manage and less likely to be frustrating so there would be no thought of employing corporal punishment.”
Currently corporal punishment in the public school system is administered by or with the guidance of the school’s principal. In the absence of the principal a senior master of mistress is tasked with assuming this responsibility.
But Panday underscored the importance of revisiting the existing stance the education system embraces regarding corporation punishment.
He added, “Education is something that happens best in smaller groups rather than larger classrooms so that is one of the recommendations that we have made to make the learning environment more personal and more manageable.”
Although the issue of corporal punishment was debated at the high decision making level – the National Assembly – the way has not yet been cleared for it to be abolished.
In some factions it is believed that a decision to abolish corporal punishment could in fact be a disastrous move.
President of the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU], Mark Lyte, during an earlier interview with this publication had made it clear that corporal punishment in a moderate form could evoke less than desirable behaviours from some children within the school system.
“We are not supportive of Corporal Punishment being taken out of the schools, as the Ministry is yet to put alternatives in place to deal with aggressive children,” Lyte said. He added too that the union would only give consideration to such a move “until various proven alternative measures have been put in place. Only then will the union rethink its stance on Corporal punishment.”
The GTU President had also stressed the need for Welfare Officers in the school system since teachers are ill-equipped to deal with children who may, at times, need counselling. Lyte has even then stated that the system in place relating to Welfare Officers is poor at best.
Former Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, had revealed his disappointment that the practice of corporal punishment was still being utilised in the school system. In fact he’d posited that corporal punishment can often lead to psychological scarring as it is no different from physical abuse.
It was the view of Dr. Roopnaraine that classrooms should not be a place of fear but rather, one of learning.
Against this background Dr. Roopnaraine had revealed plans to do away with what he called an “archaic practice” by adjusting relevant legislation in the near future. He had said too that a central counselling body will be established soon and trained Counsellors will be attached to each school. But that was since 2015.
Dr. Roopnaraine has even been removed from the Education Ministry without such a measure materialising.
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