Welfare Department probing St Margaret’s child beating claims
Stabroek News
January 23, 2004

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The Ministry of Education is investigating an allegation that corporal punishment was administered to a six-year-old by a St Margaret’s teacher 23 times in around three months. According to the complaint lodged by the child’s parent, Dr Anwar Hussain, his son, who is in Prep A has been beaten 23 times between October 2003 and January 16, 2004 by his class teacher. Dr Hussain has also made a report to Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Bibi Shadick. The head teacher of the school, Ellis Crandon, who said the matter is being investigated by the minister, yesterday told Stabroek News that she was not aware of corporal punishment being meted out to any child since her policy is that children should not be flogged in her school. She also said that the teacher, Ann Adams, has denied the beating allegations. The laws governing corporal punishment in school state that it must be administered by the head teacher or an authorised teacher and a record must be made of the offence and the number of strokes given, among other things.

The Education Ministry had several years ago issued a document with some 30 alternatives to corporal punishment. The ministry’s policy is that corporal punishment should be a last resort. Dr Hussain said that on January 16, his son’s class teacher beat the child on his legs and right hand twice. He said he had repeatedly cautioned the teacher about the psychological trauma that was resulting from the beating of his son in school. The doctor said his son has become so traumatised that he would cry out in his sleep “don’t beat me, don’t beat me”. According to his father, the child would jump up at nights from his sleep and remain distracted for several moments. “He doesn’t eat any food on the day he is beaten and had developed a screaming reaction if he is reminded of lashes by [the teacher],” Dr Hussain said. He said instead of curtailing the punishment after the complaints, the teacher in fact increased the frequency of whippings. The child was said to have been beaten four days out of five in that week and the father was again forced to speak to the teacher. Dr Hussain also said that his child has never been whipped by other teachers in the school. “The excuses given by [the teacher] for any beating of Anwar ranges from talking in class, to talking too loudly; asking whose pencil it is too loudly etc. In his school report he is cited for not having much oral expression which does not support [the teacher’s] claims of him being a talkative child.” Contacted yesterday, Minister Shadick said she has received other reports from parents whose children were also beaten by the said teacher. However, the parents do not want to be named.

Crandon yesterday told Stabroek News that she wished the parents would approach her on the issue since she has not received any such complaints against the teacher. Shadick said she has notified her probation department and the issue was being followed up. She has also spoken to Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar. “These things need to stop, Dr Hussain is very vocal, but other parents in the same school who have children in the same class have complained,” the minister said, adding that such situations can prove traumatic for a child. The minister said she spoke to Caesar on Monday last and he told her that he has also received such complaints from parents at other schools. The minister said Dr Hussain’s son was beaten once because as a Muslim he did not recite a Christian prayer. Dr Hussain confirmed this. The minister said she received another report from another school where a teacher had taped a child’s lips together and this resulted in the child fainting. She said she had rung Crandon on two occasions informing her of Dr Hussain’s complaints. Crandon said that on both occasions she had asked the minister why the parent had not approached her as headmistress with the complaint. The head teacher said that is what she would have expected since she has an open-door policy with parents. She questioned why Dr Hussain allowed the whipping to go on for so long without informing her of the issue.

The head teacher told this newspaper that her policy is that no teacher should beat children in the school. This she said has been reinforced at her meetings and she had told the teachers that even if they are given permission by parents to beat their children to refrain from doing so. She said that the teacher in question, who is the longestserving staff member, had never had any such allegation levelled at her before. “I operate my school in an open manner, and I would wish parents would come in to me if they have a problem.” She said she told the minister to let Dr Hussain visit the school on a date she provided from 10 am to anytime after. He did not take up the offer. Dr Hussain said the head teacher refused to meet him at a time convenient to him. “We are all upset over this incident, we have never had any parent behaving in such a manner, we work together with parents,” Crandon said. She described Dr Hussain’s son as pleasant and said she could not see any teacher wanting to victimise the child. A report by Dr Frank Beckles, Senior Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychiatrist Consultant: Stress-Related Disorders, who has seen the child said as a result of what has happened in school the child is demonstrating the symptoms of Acute and Chronic Traumatic Stress Disorder. “When seen, Anwar appeared listless and depressed clinging to his father... Should this pattern of corporal punishment continue to be visited upon this six-year-old pupil, he could be emotionally scarred for the remainder of his life,” the report said. According to Anwar’s report card shown to this newspaper by his father he is very brilliant and places first and second in the class. Over the years there have been several complaints about corporal punishment by teachers in various schools.