AFC to press for banning of corporal punishment
November 27, 2006
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Abolishing corporal punishment is among the issues atop the Alliance For Change (AFC)'s parliamentary agenda.
On Monday AFC MP Chantalle Smith submitted a motion for the National Assembly to recommend the abolition of corporal punishment in schools under the new Education Act. This is in keeping with Guyana's legal obligation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by the government in 1991.
In a statement issued on Friday, the AFC acknowledged that there is some support for maintaining corporal punishment in schools, but it said this is largely because parents and teachers have not been provided with alternative methods of disciplining children. It noted that in recent years there have been several incidents where children have been seriously injured by teachers and head teachers who were administering corporal punishment. It added that the Ministry of Education must take the lead in ensuring that no more children are placed in this position by abolishing corporal punishment in schools and providing information and training on alternative forms of discipline for teachers and caregivers.
Article 19 of the Conven-tion on the Rights of the Child (CRC) says, "Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child." Additionally, the Committee of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has consistently proposed the abolition of corporal punishment when the reporting process under the convention has revealed the continued existence of school corporal punishment. The Government of Guyana, in its report to the Committee of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in July of 2002 also noted that enhanced legislation is an integral element in this country's efforts to give tangible effect to the provisions of the CRC. It said too that the Constitutional Reform Com-mission acknowledged that the provisions of the CRC should inform constitutional provisions to protect children's rights. Added to that, the Oversight Committee for the revised Constitution subsequently accepted the above recommendations and in 2001 these rights were accorded the status of fundamental and human rights in the amended Constitution.
Smith's motion calls for the National Assembly to declare the continued use of corporal punishment in schools a violation of Article 19 of the CRC, and a violation of the Constitution. In this regard, she is asking that the Parliament recommend the abolition of corporal punishment under the new Education Act.
Meanwhile, on Friday, AFC leader Raphael Trotman re-submitted a Freedom of Information Bill to the Parliament. The Bill was originally submitted during the previous parliamentary session. The Bill is intended to give access to information in the possession of public authorities to members of the public and is patterned after similar legislation in the Commonwealth. The AFC says it feels strongly that legislation of this nature is imperative to support a fledging democracy such as Guyana's and it is positive that all parliamentary parties will support the Bill when it is presented for debate in the National Assembly as in the past. It noted that the call has been widely made for Freedom of Information legislation to be introduced in Guyana.
The AFC has also submitted questions for answer by Ministers of the government as requested by members of the public. The first questions to be submitted to the 9th Parliament were those forwarded by AFC MP Sheila Holder, and they address concerns about the failure of the state to adopt best practices in the mini bus transportation sector, and the government's policy on the use of state property and resources during the 2006 election campaign.