Jan 24, 2023 Letters
If anything, being a part of the education system has taught me three things: patience, tolerance and restraint. In the past week, there was a great buzz about corporal punishment in the classroom and the effects of same and the reaction of two parents towards teachers after their children were scolded / beaten. Today, I take the pen wearing two caps: one in the capacity of an educator and the other as a parent, with the aim of having both worlds understand the actions of each other and hope that situations of this nature cease within the education system.
Corporal punishment does not just mean an act of discipline within the learning institution, it envelopes any physical act of punishment by an authority be it in the home, the school, or any setting where one strives to have physical punishment as discipline. For decades the Caribbean household has prided itself in discipline by force, we all can attest to lashes, for wrongdoing and, by extension, any figure with authority was allowed to do same because the narrative that” a community raises a child” was peddled and enforced. But where and how does this form of discipline stop?
Many have lobbied to have corporal punishment ceased in the educational system the Rights of the Child commission and UNICEF are just a few.
The western Influence has also had great impact on what discipline should be but again to what extent should this be enforced? Teachers like parents are humans and when one’s authority is questioned, especially if that “one “is an adult, then the only form of punishment that would come to mind are a few lashes with the ruler, or discipline that entails lines or public shaming . I’m not here to sugarcoat anything and, as offensive at it sounds, the reality is, the authority will lash out. Almost every Caribbean or Guyanese parent, I vouch will not argue that a “belt lash, pot spoon, or a few expletives would be the first response to remedy an undisciplined act of the child.
We want our children to have manners, we want them to be disciplined , we inflict our forms of what punishment should be ,but become annoyed when another authority decides to do the same or do we? How does the teacher know when to stop? I know that, as mandated, if lashes are to be administered it must be done by the headteacher, or deputy ,or some other senior teacher, but again to what extent is this acceptable for a parent?
Do parents believe that teachers just come to work one day and decide that violence towards a child will be the order? Do parents ever question what has caused the teacher to react in the manner? Do teachers ever ask themselves were I this child’s parent would I want the same for him or her? How do we settle the feud? Does a parent believe that it is acceptable to choose violence as a response to their child being beaten by the teacher? Do they think about the repercussions of their actions? What if their blow is lethal? Do they understand the psychological effects their response would have on their child, or the record they would set for themselves, or child when another teacher has to deal with the student, or another school has to accept him or her?
What about the psychological damage caused by losing friends or feeling alienated because of the actions of the parent?
I’m not supporting any form of corporal punishment that is so severe that objects are broken, or skins ache and bleed. Neither am I saying that parents are wrong for voicing concerns about what happens in the classroom. What I’m highlighting is the manner in which teachers and parents deal with situations as it regards methods used to discipline the student.
In closing the home is the first place where a child is exposed to discipline and learning. The values instilled in him or her would result in both their actions and reactions to situations outside of the home. The Caribbean household as well as the Caribbean parent’s behaviour is influenced by our history- our own upbringing. The whip is our tool of correction. However slowly, this culture is dying, the western world and its influence is changing what discipline is and it’s quite okay for parents to get defensive of their child when they believe he or she is being harmed. But there are ways to approach this, ways which do not have to result in you losing your respect by storming into an institution to degrade and fight the only person who offers care to your child when you’re not there.
A child spends most of their time with the teacher and their peers more than they do in the household, and I do know the personality traits in the classroom are sometimes very different from those exhibited in the home, so moving forward the approach of both the parent and teacher towards the ‘delinquent child’ must be different, and so must the Ministry’s stance on corporal punishment. If we are going to abolish it, then so it must be, if we are going to put clauses around who must administer same then delinquent teachers must be held accountable, but at the end of the day, the greatest human resource to any country is the teacher, and we need to let that sink in!
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