A parent beating his son's classmate in the school compound What the people say about...
By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
November 12, 2001

On October 31, a parent was reported to have beaten his son's classmate in the compound of the Stella Maris Primary School because of a problem between his son and the classmate. The child has since been hospitalised and the Education Ministry has issued guidelines to parents which they must observe when visiting schools. We asked the man/woman-in-the-street to comment on the issue. Their views follow;

Sandia Harold - student: "First of all teachers and schools have authority and parents should respect that authority. Not all parents do. Parents should not take it into their own hands to punish their children's classmates for the fights they have in schools. Fights go on all the time but it is up to students and teachers to resolve them. Probably because of this I would suggest that the school's welfare officers meet on a regular basis with teachers, students and even with parents at their PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meetings. As students we can say anything, and we do... to get attention. Based on my own experiences I believe that schools need to set aside certain times when parents can visit the heads or make appointments to see heads and teachers. Sometimes, parents keep coming in and the heads get tired and they just refuse to see anyone because then they can't deal with school matters. Sometimes, however, headteachers would see a parent if he is 'Mr So and So' and that also should not be the case. There should be no discrimination. Emergencies could be dealt with otherwise."

Jacqueline Thomas - nurse: "Parents should always make it a priority to find out from the school whether complaints their children take home are indeed what they say they are. A child could tell a parent anything but you cannot always believe them because they too could be making up stories. There are always two sides to a story. Because of the increase in problems of violence between students and students, students and teachers, parents and teachers in some schools, and in this case a parent, I think the time is right for each school to have its own school social welfare officer. In addition there are other problems which include truancy, children going to school hungry and the list goes on. There are lots of trained social workers and the Education Ministry could use their services. Even the private schools could do the same. The Education Ministry needs to take seriously the incident at Stella Maris. That parent needs to be taken before the courts and be made to pay compensation for the damage and inconvenience he has caused. In addition he needs to be counselled."

Nadia Khan - trainee: "The incident at Stella Maris should not go without police prosecuting the parent. It is sickening to think that a parent could go to that extreme to threaten a child. I don't think that parents should be allowed to enter the school compound at any time. Yet in spite of guidelines there will be problems because guidelines are already there and they are ignored by parents and teachers alike. Perhaps parents should not be allowed to enter the school compound at all to pick up their children after school. No parent should be allowed to touch another child in anger or jest. Time should also be set aside for heads to meet parents but they should be willing to meet with parents in cases of emergencies. Based on some of the things that are happening in schools the ministry needs to get the views of schools as to how they could better ensure security for staff and students. Probably there is need for a school welfare officer to be stationed at some schools - such as those with a certain number of students on the roll."

Shirley - self-employed: "There are lot of social welfare problems in the schools and probably the beating of the child at Stella Maris by a parent (not his own) in the school compound is just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that the guards at the schools are not enough and the schools need a policeman or a welfare officer stationed there. I believe that if the students, staff and parents follow the rules of each school, we wouldn't have problems. But no one follows the rules. Just a few weeks ago another child punctured my son's ear with a pointer and the ear became infected. I had to take him (a form two student) to the doctor. I reported the matter to the school and what satisfaction did I get? None. The headmistress just dropped the matter as far as I am concerned. Next time it could be a broken bottle or knife. Long-time students used to be suspended for such offences. I have also heard of complaints where the bigger boys are beating the smaller ones, taking away their lunches and they have no one to complain to because they are afraid that if they complain they will get more beating. The problem, too is that the children take the beating, go home, and say nothing about it until they get fever and start folding up. Because of these and other related incidents I think it is time that schools get someone who will deal specially with just these matters of discipline. The headteachers no longer have time for things like these."

Sharon Persaud - housewife: "Parents should always consult the head teacher first who would call in the class teacher and the pupil or student. Fortunately for me I have no problems meeting with the head teacher at Cummings Lodge primary. I am angered by what I saw on television about the case at Stella Maris. The parent who beat the child, who was not his, should be made to go to court and pay compensation. He should be made an example of what parents should not do. Based on this and other problems schools now face I think that the ministry needs to have welfare officers who would be responsible for clusters of schools in some areas in the city or in the country. You send your child to school you expect them to be safe from adults, especially other parents. This incident is right now a matter of concern and should be discussed at PTA meetings."

Colin Beckles - photographer/videographer: "The incident is a serious one but in such an instance, I think I will be cool. My first priority would be to my child's well-being health and safety. When I am sure my son is out of danger, I'll do some good intelligence. I'll find the man, even if I have to abduct him, take him on the highway and tie him up to a tree and with his son and mine looking on give him a double dose of what he would have given my son.
It is important for adults to understand that their mistakes are a thousand times bigger than that of the child. We do the wrong thing and yet we expect our children to do the right thing. Setting down guidelines is one thing but adhering to them is another. I believe that the responsibility for development lies on the individual who is the catalyst for change. What has me confused is that we are looking to the government, this and that institution, organisation and the media among others for change but we are not looking into the mirror."

Selwyn Devonish - stevedore: "I don't agree with what that parent did. I can't condone it. No parent should beat another child in school or on the road. What that parent did was barbaric. I think that the man should be charged and taken before the court. No favour should be shown because he is a businessman or whatever. The child was traumatised and hospitalised and should be compensated. I am sorry that the man's child might now be made to suffer because of his father's action. I don't know what the ministry can do but I know that some action must be taken because some other ignorant parent might want to do the same thing again."

Jermaine Austin - customs officer: "Heads of scho
ols should not hide these things. They should be reported immediately to the departments of education or the Education Ministry and action taken immediately. If this had happened before when the parent had abducted the first child and taken him away from the school, he would not have done what he did this time around. He should not be allowed to go Scot free. Court or no court, he has to pay some compensation. The child definitely suffered on account of what that parent did. I can only hope that the teacher or teachers and children who saw what happened are brave enough and are not intimidated to go before the court as witnesses. I can only hope that the ministry's guidelines will be adhered to. I am glad the ministry has come out in support of protecting students from the parents, who ought to be more responsible."

Wendel George - Justice of the Peace: "The parent became angry and let his anger control him which was bad. If your child and another child have a problem there is no way you as a parent could go and beat up another person's child. That is going back to the caveman style. The police has a right to now prosecute. He must pay the child's expenses incurred during the child's hospitalisation and hope that the child makes a full recovery. Years ago I had written to the school about security at schools and it is as relevant today as it was then. Security guards should be the first line of defence in schools and I am disappointed that the guard did not hold that parent and turn him over to the police there and then. While children must be protected from each other it now appears that they must also be protected from their peers' parents. I don't support the idea that schools must have welfare officers attached to them. Like the olden days when teachers were trained to deal with the delinquent child, I still think that type of training is necessary."

George Odwin - student: "In the first place the father was wrong. He had a right to hear both versions of the story. How sure was he that his son was telling him everything. Children could say things to suit their purposes. I think the matter should be fully investigated and appropriate action taken. The child must be compensated however, regardless. Today because of what is happening in schools there is so much need for more care. Some time ago at secondary school a fifth former cuffed out two teeth from a second former so there is definitely need for moral education, guidance and counselling in schools. What has happened has sure left schools with a feeling of insecurity."