“Do not re-invent the wheel with our children” - new group
Kaieteur News

June 14, 2004

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AT a hastily-convened meeting on Tuesday evening last at the City Hall, a group, formed as “Concerned Citizens for the REAL Rights of the Child” met to respond to a move they saw as being aimed at the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and eventually in homes.

This move, the group claimed, was initiated recently by the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCROC) and the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with UNICEF.

The new grouping, in its notice to the public about the meeting had called for the involvement of “all parents, guardians, ‘conscious’ teachers, church persons and all stakeholders involved in the care and upbringing of children in Guyana”. Stated also was that the above-mentioned government bodies and UNICEF had arranged for distribution of forms to children in seemingly targeted primary and secondary schools in Georgetown.

The children were tasked by teachers to sign forms indicating whether they wished for “beating” (the forms specifically said) in schools or not.

The meeting also learned that the results of the signatures by the children were to be tabulated and would form the basis of a report as to how schoolchildren in the nation felt about “discipline by beating”. This formulated report, according to a letter sent to heads of schools, would be put forward at a Workshop planned by the NCROC and the Ministry for June l6, and June l7 at the Le Meridien Pegasus.

Also disclosed at the meeting was what the panelists termed “a most alarming suggestion”, made during a NCROC’s televised news conference, by a senior Education Ministry official.

The official suggested that perhaps children should be asked whether they wanted flogging at home; and he contended that students rather than adults should decide how schools should be run. Tuesday’s meeting saw a gathering of representatives from church bodies such as the Georgetown Ministers Fellowship and the Guyana Evangelical Fellowship, parent-teacher associations and other “concerned” members of the public. They passed a resolution that, among other things, called for the reversal of what they termed “repulsive ideas” being pushed by NCROC, the Education ministry and UNICEF.

They contended that the forms had been given the children to sign in schools without the knowledge of parents and guardians; that this was considered illegal, unconstitutional and presumptuously in contravention of their rights and jurisdiction and should be recalled forthwith. Panelists at the meeting of the new Citizens Concerned body, headed by businessman and analyst/commentator Lorri Alexander, who had aired what he called “a most provoking and eye-pass issue’ raised by a parent on his T.V. programme “Guyana the way forward –Ting nah regular”.

That programme included Loris Heywood of the Camp Street Brethren Bethel Gospel Hall, Bernice Walcott of the South Road Full Gospel Fellowship, Eleanor Jordan, a pastor of the Lamaha Street Fellowship (all Tele-evangelists) and Malcolm Fredericks of the Assemblies of God Church and of several parent/ teacher associations, including Winfer Gardens Primary and Queen’s College.

Tuesday’s meeting also revealed that Guyana seemed to have signed on to a convention of the United Nations concerning the Rights of the Child, when Mrs. Janet Jagan, as President, had led a delegation to a meeting of that body, and had committed Guyana to abolishing “corporal punishment” in Guyana.

It seemed that this upcoming workshop and campaign was as a consequence of this commitment, the meeting concluded. The members described it as a move, which one panelist felt was attempting to achieve this end “surreptitiously, through the back door”.

Several people voiced their concerns and felt that vociferous and continuous objection must be taken to any government campaign, in any guise, to go down a road which, in general, was considered “flying in the face of God’s word” and “certain to bring disruption between parents and concerned teachers and children”.

It was generally stated by participants from the floor that as ‘big persons now’ they cannot say that discipline by corporal punishment, or in any form, had hindered their development from childhood to adulthood; but that, on the contrary, this form of discipline had contributed to their being better rounded persons.

That fear of punishment, even more than the actual act, was a considerable deterrent to childhood wrongdoing and possible waywardness.