Shadick declines comment on UN appeal on corporal punishment
Stabroek News
February 8, 2004

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Minister Bibi Shadick has declined comment on the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child calling on Guyana to outlaw all corporal punishment.

Guyana is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Minister within the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Bibi Shadick had attended the session in Geneva out of which came the recommendation prohibiting corporal punishment in schools and other institutions.

On Thursday when the communiqué was published, Stabroek News attempted to get a comment from Shadick. However, her secretary told this newspaper that the minister had not read the UN release and asked the reporter to call back. Stabroek News contacted the minister again yesterday, who once again speaking through her secretary, said she was annoyed that Stabroek News carried the release without her comment. She felt that the newspaper could have waited and as such she had nothing to say.

Stabroek News viewed the communiqué as being an important development from an international organisation that could be published without comment.

Among the other issues raised by the committee was that pregnant teenagers should be given an opportunity to complete their education. Stabroek News attempted to get a comment from the Ministry of Education on the issue of pregnant teenagers in school but all attempts proved unsuccessful. Some schools do allow pregnant students to attend school while others do not.

The UN also recommended that the age of minimum sexual consent and the minimum age of criminal responsibility be raised to an internationally acceptable age. The age of sexual consent in Guyana is 16, while the laws of Guyana state that it should be conclusively presumed that no child under the age of ten years can be found guilty of an offence.

It means that an 11-year-old can be found guilty of an offence. The laws also state that a juvenile is under the age of 17 but persons 17 and under are found criminally responsible for offences.

In relation to corporal punishment, while there are provisions which state that corporal punishment should only be administered under the supervision of the headmistress or by a teacher he or she appoints, many teachers still regularly flog.

A recent case is that of Dr Anwar Hussain who has complained about the numerous beatings his six-year-old child, who attends top primary school, St Margaret's, received from his teacher. The teacher and the school's headmistress have denied the allegations and the education ministry's welfare department had reportedly launched an investigation.

However, up to yesterday no one could shed any light on the outcome.

Dr Hussain has since stated that following him going public about the flogging, his child has faced other forms of punishment from his class teacher.

He said on January 27 when his son entered the classroom he found that parents had rearranged the class and the child was told in the presence of his father that he could not sit in his usual seat with his classmate. This caused the child to cry. However, the teacher rearranged the class later. Dr Hussain said his child was made to stand in front of the class with his eyes closed and children have said they were told by their parents not to play with him.