Corporal punishment in schools must be banned
Stabroek News
February 2, 2004

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Dear Editor

The comments by Mr Nathaniel Griffith in his letter captioned "Whipping at school made me a serious student" (27.1.2004) about beating children in schools are shocking and tragic. These comments reflect the serious consequence of what whipping children does - it first of all makes people believe that they are not deserving of non-violent discipline and negotiations, that it is okay for those in power to do as they please with young people and that they could perpetuate the injustices on the next generation.

Those of us who beat children beat children because they cannot beat us back. As a result, the youngest children fall victim to the worst violence inflicted by adults who seem to have no other means of dealing with children.

Currently there are many protests over alleged State terrorism. However, the hypocrites forget that every day, in our schools, children are victims of a subtle form of state-sanctioned terrorism - poor children especially, whose parents may be afraid of incurring teachers' wrath, sometimes doubly face the abuse of authority, confident in the sanction in the old Education Act which allows beating children. There are many teachers from many generations who did not have to beat any of their students and whose students have become decent human beings.

Mr Griffith mentions the difference between Canada and Guyana - he must examine those differences, and understand that the Canadian intolerance for beating children is part of a wider process of civilisation which is many times fraught with difficult choices.

The Stabroek News report about the incident at St Margaret's was very public; there was another quiet mention in another story about a Multilateral School where a parent with a piece of wood was planning to hit a teacher who had hit his child. We have not heard what happened after in any of these instances.

In our discussion of violence and the use of violence in our society, corporal punishment has to be outlawed, teachers have to be given different tools to deal with children, the teachers who never had to beat children could be involved in this discussion. The Ministry of Education should stop the ambiguity on beating children which would confuse an inexperienced teacher who has to face a group of unruly children, who herself or himself is a product of an abusive education , and who lashes out at young children who have no recourse to dealing with them. And the people who believe that they are better for having been whipped should realise that they would never know any different, and that they have a chance to right the wrongs done to them.

Yours faithfully,

Vidyaratha Kissoon