Counselling, student governance among 30 suggested corporal punishment alternatives
Panellists differ

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
July 13, 2001

Providing trained counsellors and welfare officers, encouraging peer counselling, organising field trips to correctional institutions and establishing student government were among 30 suggested alternatives to corporal punishment in schools.

The alternatives were put forward on Wednesday by educators, head teachers, teachers and parents in the wake of reports of corporal punishment being administered in violation of the laws in place governing it.

The alternatives were supposed to be the subject of a debate among a number of panellists at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development in Kingston on Wednesday, but instead the subject debated was whether corporal punishment should remain in the statutes or be abolished.

The panellists were West Ruimveldt Primary School teacher Wilfred Success, concerned citizen Bernice Walcott, Queen's College teacher Frank Jordan, teacher Philip Duncan, Queen's College Board Member Dr Steve Surujbally, educator Yvonne Arthur, Queen's College teacher Elena Jordan, Queen's College Board Member Conrad Plummer, human rights educator Merle Mendonca, social worker Andrew Kartick and Pastor Winston Assannah. Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Ed Caesar, was the moderator.

In introductory remarks, Caesar said that he was sure that most of the cases in which corporal punishment was administered and injuries resulted were not in keeping with the rules, regulations and procedures in place for administering such. He asked that panellists look at the issue in relation to the education act, the criminal act and the training school act and how they could be reconciled with the fact that Guyana is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which views corporal punishment as abuse.

Prior to the discussions, Arthur read the laws governing corporal punishment in school which state that it must be administered by the head teacher or an authorised teacher, a record must be made of the offence and the number of strokes given, among others.

Mendonca observed that research has shown that corporal punishment was formulated for correctional institutions in 1957 and revised in 1974. It was incorporated into the education act. She felt that corporal punishment was repressive and did not enhance the well?being of the child.

Success noted that at West Ruimveldt Primary corporal punishment was being de-emphasised and was not being administered as frequently as in the past. However, he said, some parents would ask teachers ? including himself - to whip their children so that they would do their work or when they misbehaved.

Walcott, the Jordans, Duncan, Plummer and Assanah felt that corporal punishment was necessary and that there was no alternative to corporal punishment.

Dr Surujbally, who also felt that corporal punishment was repressive said that listening to his colleagues who quoted from the Bible to strengthen their reasons for corporal punishment to remain in the statutes made him feel as though he was in Jurassic Park.

He advised that they be careful when using biblical illusions and that `rod' and `staff' should not be taken literally but metaphorically. For example he said that while the rod should be seen as instilling discipline, he noted that Psalm 23 referred to the rod and staff as being instruments of comfort.

Some other alternatives suggested to corporal punishment were: * encouraging home visits by teachers;
* utilising the prefect/monitor system in all post nursery schools; * assigning more responsibilities to children;
* withholding privileges from children who default;
* involving parents more in the school welfare of their children;
* demanding written or oral apologies from children who default;
* announcing infractions at general assembly;
* instituting cost recovery for loss of or damage to property;
* admonishing defaulters;
* suspending defaulters;
* detaining defaulters to do productive work;
* implementing supervised school/community services;
* educating parents;
* sending warning letters to parents;
* improving the physical facilities (buildings, recreational areas, equipment, tools, etc) available to children and teachers;
* reducing the pupil-teacher ratio and adhering to it;
* providing incentives for acceptable behaviour;
* publicly commending acceptable behaviour;
* involving parents and children in formulation of school rules;
* providing security guards for schools;
* organising special PTA/class/form/level meetings to deal with indiscipline;
* showing love to children;
* teaching children and teachers about the rights of children and encouraging respect for those rights;
* recording and including on transcripts acts of indiscipline and outstanding achievements;
* making parents more legally responsible for unacceptable behaviour of children.