Ministry working towards ending corporal punishment in schools

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
June 15, 2001

The Ministry of Education says it has prepared a 30-point paper with the intention of working towards the complete elimination of corporal punishment in schools.

The statement comes on the heels of much-publicised cases of corporal punishment in which two students were seriously injured.

While the teacher who injured nine-year-old Nickesha Garraway continues to teach at the Lodge/Enterprise Primary School another child says that the same teacher had flogged her and fractured her left arm in October 1999.

Chief Education Officer Ed Caesar in a release issued yesterday in response to calls for a comment on the issue by Stabroek News said that the Ministry of Education over the last few months has prepared a thirty-point paper with alternatives to corporal punishment and the ministry will soon provide the opportunity for the general public to offer its comments on the proposals.

The paper, he said, was prepared in conjunction with education officers in the regions, headteachers, teachers and parents.

The ministry, he said, is deeply concerned about the incidents of "child abuse" that have been reported to the ministry and "carried" in the national media. It has recognised, he said, that in all cases, where some form of injury has resulted, the regulations relating to corporal punishment were not adhered to.

He reminded teachers and the general public that limited power resides in the schools in the area of corporal punishment. "Such must be administered only by the headteacher or a senior teacher in the presence of the headteacher. Furthermore, such punishment must be the last alternative. Disciplinary action will be taken against teachers who operate outside of the regulatory framework".

Meanwhile, the child, who was injured back in 1999 and who has since recovered, was Jewella Alexander of 125 South Sophia, Block E. At the time of the incident the mother, Marcia Jeremiah and child had visited the offices of Stabroek News after she felt that the matter was not dealt with by the Ministry of the Education and the police.

Yesterday, eleven-year-old Jewella recalled the incident when her left arm was fractured by the same teacher in whose class she was. At the time she was nine years old.

She said that she was "reading easy" and because she did not read loudly the teacher began to beat her on her legs and on her body with a piece of wood. She said that because she was crying the teacher sent her to the back of the class where she continued crying.

After a while the teacher came to her and asked her why she was crying and she showed the teacher her swollen arm. The teacher, she said, told her to go home and tell her mother to put ice on it. She left the school before class was dismissed for the afternoon session and went to her older sister who attended the same school. The older sister went to see the teacher to find out if indeed her sister was being sent home and she was chased back to her class. She then went home. Her mother and an aunt, Sandra Chase went directly to the teacher's class. Chase asked her niece what the teacher had beaten her with and the child pointed to a piece of wood about 30 inches long and one and a half inches thick which was on the teacher's desk. Chase said she picked it up and held it in her hands and asked the teacher why she had beaten the child with the stick. She said the teacher became abusive and told them they could do whatever they wanted to. The deputy headteacher she said took the stick away from her.

When she said that she would need financial help to look after Jewella, Jeremiah said that the response from other teachers was not good. She said that the X-ray revealed that the child suffered a fractured arm. The hand was encased in plaster of paris and held up in a sling.

Jeremiah said that she went to the Georgetown Education Department but was told to return the following Monday as the officer said that he could not tend to her that day because he was going to see the doctor. She said that she tried to get the attention of senior officers at the Ministry of Education but to no avail.

At the police station she said the response was also not encouraging so in the end she became discouraged and decided to go public with the story. That was when she said she visited the offices of Stabroek News and went on the `Justice for All' programme aired on CNS Channel 6.

She said that nothing has come out of the case except that the teacher refused to teach the child after the incident and she was placed in another class. The child who is now in Primary Four and preparing for the Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations told Stabroek News that all is not well with her at the school. She said that teachers do not take an interest in her and ignore her telling her that her mother "quick to run to Sharma". Even some of her classmates poke fun at her for the same reason. She will be glad to leave the school, she said.

The teacher was taken into police custody for flogging Garraway

with a bamboo rod which resulted in a fractured collar bone on May 30. She was held 11 days after the child was injured and had been absent from school for more than a week. She was released on $10,000 station bail. Nickesha is back at school writing the end of term examinations. The police are continuing investigations.