Child injured; teacher accused
Education Department probes pelting incident at school By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
February 27, 2002

The Georgetown Education Department is currently conducting investigations into allegations of a male teacher pelting a girl child with a piece of wood at a city primary school, resulting in her foot being fractured.

This is the third incident in which a child was reportedly injured at school within the past nine months; the first was Nickesha Garraway of Lodge/Enterprise Primary in late May last year and then 13-year-old Kellon Felix of Vyrman's Erven Junior Secondary School, New Amsterdam in June.

In the most recent incident, the child's mother, Tabitha Ferdinand told Stabroek News last week that she was seeking a transfer because she felt that persons at the school were telling lies on the child with the objective of trying to get people to believe that she was injured prior to attending school that day.

The Primary Three child, ten-year-old Torana Ferdinand of Thomas More Primary, in the company of her mother, Tabitha Ferdinand, told Stabroek News that the teacher who pelted her with the stick on January 15, asked her to say that he had not hit her.

Yesterday Assistant Chief Education Officer with responsibility for Georgetown, George Gilgeous, told Stabroek News that he had indicated in a letter to the teacher that whether the child was injured or not, prior to the incident of February 15, he was wrong to commit the act. The teacher, he said, has admitted to pelting the child.

Relating the incident, Torana said that on the day in question, before classes started she and other children were cleaning the inside of the school. They were making a great deal of noise and the teacher (name provided) was trying to stop them. "He was talking to a boy and I was standing next to the boy," she said when "Sir ... take a stick and... pelt it to my foot. After he hit my foot, I fell on the ground. The children were calling him and he did not come. Then he come after and he carried me in the office and started rubbing the foot with Limacol. I tell him it hurting."

Torana claimed that the teacher asked her if her stepfather hit her and she said, "I told him no. He does not beat me." She said that her teacher then told her to say that her mother had beaten her but again she said, "I told him no." Her schoolmates, she said also asked her whether her mother and stepfather had beaten her and she said she told all of them "No". She said that she did "not get licks".

She recalled that her class teacher (name given) went into the office and told the teacher to take her to the hospital. She said he did not, but called her mother instead.

Ferdinand said that the teacher called her and told her to collect her daughter "because she can't walk". She said she asked why the child could not walk and got no answer. Thinking the worst, she said, she dropped the telephone and started to cry. She then went straight to the school where she said that she saw her daughter sitting on a chair in the headmaster's office. The headmaster, she understood, was not in office during the morning hours and he was not there when she arrived either. However, she said, the teacher was rubbing Torana's foot.

She asked him what had happened to her daughter's foot and he admitted that he had thrown a stick and it hit the child's foot. "I asked him if she could see the stick and he brought it. The stick was about two and a half feet long."

She said she asked him to go with her to the hospital but he said that he could not leave the school. They got into an argument and this attracted other teachers to the office, where they learnt of the incident for the first time, she said. She claimed that the senior mistress asked the teacher why he had not said that something had happened.

Ferdinand said that the senior mistress then called a taxi and accompanied her and her child to the hospital where the foot was x-rayed, a fracture to the ankle determined and it was placed in Plaster of Paris. She then reported the matter at the East La Penitence Police Station. It has since been referred to the Alberttown Police Station. She also made a report to the Georgetown Education Department.

Ferdinand said that she was concerned that the Department of Education was claiming that the child was beaten at home and that her reputed husband might have beaten the child. This she denied vehemently stating that the stepfather did not beat the child. She said that the child walked to school that morning quite cheerfully but could not walk after she was hit with the stick.

Gilgeous said he had asked the stepfather questions last Friday, based on reports he had received. He said that the stepfather accused him of being biased against him. On account of the manner in which he responded, Gilgeous said, he ended the meeting. However, he said that he told the stepfather that when he had "cooled down" he would be willing to continue the discussion.

On that same day, before the incident, Ferdinand claimed, she had told the teacher that Torana would not be taking dance lessons anymore because she had been going home late in the afternoons and she was not happy with that because "she was a girl child". He had asked she said that she continue because she was due to perform on February 22. But Torana had misbehaved, Ferdinand said, and she insisted that she stop taking dance lessons immediately as a form of punishment.

Gilgeous said that he has continuously reminded teachers and head teachers about the manner in which corporal punishment must be administered and alternatives to corporal punishment. He said that he has even reminded the teachers that when they beat children and injure then they make the front page in the newspapers and headlines news on television.

In May last year, Garraway, then a nine-year old schoolgirl, suffered a broken clavicle (collar bone) after she was flogged with a bamboo rod. The teacher was subsequently charged with causing bodily harm and the matter is still engaging the attention of the courts. The child was transferred from the school.

One month later, then 13-year old Felix of Tucber Housing Scheme suffered a fractured elbow after being hit with a stick during class. The teacher was also charged with causing actual bodily harm and that matter is also engaging the attention of the magistrates' courts in New Amsterdam.