Education Ministry will take stance on corporal punishment by new school year
- Jeffrey
Stabroek News
December 19, 2001

The Ministry of Education will take a position by June next year, on whether corporal punishment in schools, as a means of disciplining students, should be abolished or not, Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, said.

Responding to questions from journalists on the GTV/GINA sponsored `Answers' programme on GTV Channel 11 aired over the weekend, Jeffrey noted that the ministry has issued a document to schools with some 30 alternatives to corporal punishment. Since then, he said, the ministry had not come up with a new position. But he said that some teachers were not taking the alternatives to corporal punishment seriously and were continuing to beat and were "getting away with it." He noted that lots of parents believed in corporal punishment and even authorised teachers to flog their children.

Right now, the ministry is saying that administering corporal punishment should be a last resort and it must not be administered by any teacher outside the headteacher's purview. But in spite of this, he said, the ministry was aware that it was not being administered as it should be.

He asserted that by June 2002, the ministry would have to come up with a position. He said that corporal punishment was an issue that a community would have to take a stand on.

He said that while he did not believe in corporal punishment and many educators shared the same view, their position was not a popular one in Guyana since many people still believed that corporal punishment should remain on the law books.

Speaking briefly about the draft Education Act, which still makes no reference to corporal punishment, Jeffrey said that was being redrafted "for lots of reasons." One reason, however, is to give more clout to the regional system as a model for managing resources and representation.

Asked whether retaining the law on corporal punishment would not be going against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the minister said that conventions were not meant to be dogmas.

He said that some things must be seen in the context of the country's socio-economic situation and while in the convention there were many other things that were useful and Guyana was a party to it, as a country "we must make a determination."

Commenting on the truancy campaign, Jeffrey said that it did not fall out of the sky. He said that it was just one way to say to children: 'go to school and not become a problem to society.'

The campaign, he said, had the public's support and in a sense it was working, but he could not say whether the children netted in the campaign were back in school. "We don't want to judge in that fashion. What we are doing is sending a general message." He said that the school had a responsibility to see that children were educated but it was not really the ministry's responsibility to see that they went to school. "We do it because we realise they [the children] can be a dysfunction to society, he added.