Teachers must learn Editorial
Stabroek News
May 29, 2004

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Local teachers are rarely named individually in the news. In fact, this only happens about once a year when children under their tutelage excel at national, regional or international examinations; when Laparkan announces its 'teacher of the year'; or when teachers themselves excel at training college or university. This changed recently, but for all the wrong reasons.

In one instance, a teacher was bludgeoned by a secondary school student with a piece of wood, and in two other cases, two teachers have faced accusations of meting out brutal punishment to primary school pupils. In the first case to be reported in the media, a teacher at St Margaret's Primary School on Camp Street had flogged six-year-old Anwar Hussain more than 20 times in less than two months.

After this was reported, a probe conducted by the Ministry of Education found that this same teacher, though she had denied the first accusation, had also beaten other pupils in her class. The Chief Education Officer had seriously upbraided the head teacher of the school on the issue and the ministry had subsequently written a warning letter to the teacher.

However, after that issue surfaced, a grandmother had come forward with the story that her grandson Joel Punch had suffered a broken arm when his teacher at New Comenius Primary School in Anira Street, Queenstown, had beaten him with a broken piece of furniture. This incident had occurred before the Hussain one, but the grandmother felt she was being given the run-around.

This week, it was reported that the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) had concluded its deliberations on the issues and had taken disciplinary action against both of the teachers implicated in the last two incidents. Both teachers hail from Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) and both have been transferred to schools in that region.

It is hoped that the adverse publicity generated by these incidents would give these and other teachers a second's pause when, irritated and at the end of their tether, they raise their hands to abuse children. It is hoped that the actions taken by the authorities in these instances would free more parents and children to raise their voices when they are subjected to abuse - of any sort.

And while the ministry and the TSC must be commended for their moves to protect innocents, it is also hoped that at some point, they will turn their attention to the study conducted some two years ago which found that there was physical, mental, sexual and emotional abuse of children by teachers in schools. It is hoped that the teachers who are guilty of such acts would stop before there is need for an investigation. It is also hoped that companies and boards, which consider awards for teachers who perform exemplarily would make a note of those whose conduct is questionable and exclude them.

But most of all it is hoped that the teachers who are teachers; the ones who manage to impart knowledge in a warm atmosphere regardless of the environment; the ones who bring out the best in our children with nary a harsh word or a blow; the ones who inspire future teachers, will be recognized, publicly. These are the teachers whose names should be shouted from the rooftops as these are the ones who can mentor not only children, but other teachers and thus bring about change.