Guyana’s schools are violent places. In recent times, the violence has escalated and become more brutal.
In October, a fifteen-year-old Muslim student was attacked by two students of her school. In the process, her hijab was violently removed. The family has complained about the lack of justice in the matter.
More than one month ago, an eight-year-old student from Mon Repos Primary School was brutally beaten by other students. His injuries have been so severe that he has been hospitalised for more than a month.
What sort of children would inflict such a savagery on another child? Yet to date, there has been no report as to whether criminal charges are going to be filed, under the Juvenile Act, against those responsible for this abhorrent attack.
A video surfaced last week which showed a male student of the Richard Ishmael Secondary School unleashing an unrestrained beating on a female student. He unleashed a volley of savage cuffs on her face while tossing her around. An investigation has been launched into the incident, but it has been reported that the students have apologised to each other.
A teacher was recently the victim of a vicious attack at a city school. Since then, parents have taken to social media to complain about the harsh corporal punishment which is administered at that school, and which it is alleged has resulted in injuries to their children.
And just a few days ago, a most disturbing report appeared in the media. The police are said to be investigating whether a child was beaten and sodomized by fellow students.
All of these violent attacks have happened within a few weeks of each other. They may represent only a tip of the iceberg of the level of violence in our schools.
The madness is not confined to public schools. There have also been incidents in the past of violence, including bullying, at private schools. In one notorious incident, female students urinated in the water bottle of another student.
Children are going to school in fear. Some of them are trembling when they enter the school’s compound. The problem is not just fear of their fellow students. Children are also afraid of teachers who can be just as violent in inflicting punishment and being verbally abusive in upbraiding children.
When you consider the levels of violence within Guyana’s schools; when you consider that children are being bullied on a daily basis and often keep this a secret from their teachers and parents; when you consider also that school management has become so lax that the Ministry of Education has had to place a ban on Christmas parties within government schools in Georgetown; one has to question the safety of our educational system.
The laws of Guyana make it compulsory for children to have formal education up to Grade 9. But why should any parent be forced to send their children into a violent system, when there is a better alternative available?
That option is home-schooling. Many parents are keen to have their children tutored at home. With home-schooling, the child does not attend either a private or public school, but rather, is taught by their parents at home or by hired tutors.
Parents should have the right to home tutor their children. Many mothers are stay-at-home moms and they feel that they have the time, the knowledge, and the right environment to teach their kids at home. Many of them are eager to do this, since it will allow them to spend more time with their children.
These parents feel that through home schooling, their children would be better off. For one, they argue that the children will be able to do more work under their supervision or under the supervision of private tutors.
Also, the children would have fewer distractions. And, some parents argue that it will actually be cheaper for them, because there will be no uniforms and the children will not have to take lunches and snacks to school.
Savings will also be had from having to pay for all the things that are usually associated with sending your children to school. Additionally, the children would not have the possibility of being abused by other children or being subjected to all the other trepidations of school life.
However, home-schooling is not recognized as formal education. And therefore parents have the most painful of choices to make. Even though some of them can afford to home-school their children, they are being forced to send their children each day into a violent environment. No parent should be forced to do so.
The Ministry of Education should decide if they will allow home schooling. It is one thing to deny a child an education. It is another thing to deny a parent the right to determine what sort of education that child should have.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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