Kaieteur News
December 5, 2006

Related Links: Articles on corporal punishment
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Have you often wondered why psychologists usually delve deep into the childhood of their clients. The reason, I am told is that your childhood experiences are never transitory but leave an indelible mark on your personality, shaping your fears and your attitude towards life.

Most of us of the older generation grew up with respect for authority because in school we were flogged so often for the slightest of indiscretions that we had a mortal fear of the whip. These days, teachers cannot whip students as they feel. The Ministry of Education has ruled that a teacher first must obtain permission from the principal before he can do this. While some people feel this had led to a decline in respect for authority, both public and private, it is my view that in limiting flogging in schools we are saving our children from psychological scars.

One year ago within these columns I wrote “Those who support the flogging of children in school have little appreciation of the worth of human beings. They most likely were similarly abused during their school days and their support of corporal punishment is meant to assuage their own inner fears that somehow they had a normal childhood.

I was a child once and nothing drove fear into me more than the anticipation that some small misgiving or mistake would result in lashes from an irate teacher. If you spelt a word incorrectly, instead of the teacher helping you out with the phonics, you would be rewarded with a few stinging lashes as if you had deliberately erred. Teachers in the old days were unforgiving when it came to the minutest of mistakes.

The old folks will say that education was better in their days than it is today; let them continue to fool themselves. In the old days, only a small percentage of the school-aged population made it to secondary school and so the passes, relative to the overall secondary school population, were high. With the increase in access to secondary education, there was bound to be a decline in relative passes and an increase in absolute numbers. Peeping Tom feels that generally the standard of education is higher today than it was forty years ago. So please do not tell me that corporal punishment produced “good students.”

In a previous article entitled Licks Like Peas, I called attention to the need for teachers to conform to the rules, regardless of their opinions about corporal punishment. I noted then that “The Ministry of Education had issued a circular that only head teachers can authorise flogging. Yet, despite these well-publicised regulations governing discipline, these rules are being openly flouted in many schools. Some teachers are in the habit of bringing their domestic problems into the classroom and taking it out mercilessly on the children.

Teachers need to be taught that they do not have an inalienable right to use force on children. In the case of teachers their right to inflict pain finds no sanction in law, neither should it in public opinion. I do not want to bore you with the research conducted into the effects of this form of abuse. But the psychological scars remain with the abused child forever, and ultimately affect their behaviour in all stages of life.

Our children are not musical drums that teachers can beat upon. They are human beings with feelings, too frail and small to defend themselves. The flogging of children in school amounts to advantage. This abuse must be brought to an end. Otherwise we will produce a generation of young people with irreversible psychological illnesses.”

“Children do have human rights. They are entitled to the right to a pleasant childhood; we have duty to provide them with education free of abuse. So let us stamp out this flogging of our children. This is not the stone-age where an education has to be beaten into our children.”

Flogging of children in our schools in unnecessary. I do not know of any child who does not want to have the affection of his teachers. I do not know of any child who would not want to do all his work and do it correctly. But sometimes the children simply do not understand a concept being taught, cannot express their difficulties or simply need further help in the subject area. So instead of beating them we need to find out what exactly is the problem and try to help them.

In every school there are bound to be bad eggs. I know that there are many students who are indisciplined. But which one of us is perfect, we all make mistakes. The benefit of hindsight gives us the opportunity to look back on our lives and see the many mistakes or wrong turns we made. But we do not whip ourselves. So why should we support the flogging of our helpless children?

I do not care whether it is in school or in extra lessons, teachers have no right to beat children. It is abuse, plain and simple. I will support corporal punishment being a criminal offence. I cannot understand how some parents can send their children to extra lessons and allow their children to be whipped by teachers who they are paying to help their children overcome their academic difficulties. What are the teachers being paid for? To beat the problem out of the children? Parents can do that at home, can they not?

It is sickening to hear tales of parents who actually decide which extra lessons to send their children, based on the amount of licks shared. For some parents the more the licks, the better.

A certain little girl, when asked her name, would reply, “I'm Mr. Brown's daughter.” Her mother wanting her to be precise in her language told her this was wrong, she must say, “I'm Jane Brown.”

The next day a teacher saw the child in the cafeteria and asked, “Aren't you Mr. Brown's daughter?”

She replied, “I thought I was, but mother says I'm not.”

Guess what? She was whipped for being rude.