Opponents of corporal punishment may turn attention to parents – Opposition Leader

Kaieteur News
January 8, 2007

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Opposition Leader Robert Corbin is agitating for corporal punishment to remain a part of the school system, since its removal could spark calls to stop the controversial practice in homes and thus create a breakdown in societal values.

The People's National Congress Reform-One Guyana (PNCR-1G) has not taken a position of the controversial subject, which is now up for Parliamentary debate, but Corbin posited that corporal punishment should not be abolished completely.

He told Kaieteur News recently that the form of punishment should be regulated tightly.

According to the Opposition Leader, while there is a campaign for the abolition of corporal punishment, the issue which should be looked at is the rights of parents to determine the method of disciplining their children.

He expressed reservations about the abolition of corporal punishment in schools in light of the historical trend, which he said could lead to someone coming up with the idea that parents should be reprieved of the right to discipline children.

“I am very worried that the trend could possibly lead to someone wanting to legislate on the rights of parents to discipline their children, as is the case in many developed societies where discipline has gone to the dogs and where parents cannot even sometimes speak to their children because the law removes the authority to administer certain types of punishment,” Corbin posited.

He said that he is also against the right of society to interfere with the parental right to bring up a child.

Corbin added that in any society there is the need for methods of discipline, even though he added that he disagrees completely with violence against children.

The opposition leader said that to abolish the right of penalty in that absolute way, could contribute to further decay in society.

He stated that unless Government implements a heavily organised parental education programme, there will be problems if one removes the authority from teachers and parents to administer corporal punishment.

“Unless one introduces a sophisticated form of education, one could be creating a monster…the bigger problem we have in Guyana is not corporal punishment in schools, it is discipline of our children…building correct attitudes and values.

“In a society where a young man at 12 or 14 is picking up a gun and is so coldhearted to use it really sends a message that we should be focusing on discipline,” Corbin said.

Corbin, who received lashes as a youth, said that the fear of corporal punishment is sometimes more effective than corporal punishment itself.

“My father gave me four beatings in my lifetime and I remember them…I think that the fear of it was more important than the actual beating because it kept me in line at a time when I was very wayward and may not have been where I am today had it not been for the strap on my back,” Corbin said.

Public debate on corporal punishment has intensified over the last few weeks since Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament, Chantalle Smith, tabled a motion in the National Assembly seeking to abolish the practice in schools.

Debate on the Motion has been pushed back to some time this year to allow for greater consultations.

The AFC is supportive of the abolishment of corporal punishment under the new Education Act and Smith in her Motion contends that the continuing use of corporal punishment in schools is a violation of the constitution and Guyana 's obligations under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

However, Education Minister Shaik Baksh said that Government was not in favour of removing corporal punishment from schools, but will await the outcome of ongoing consultations on a new Education Act.

He said that the consultations should address the issue of corporal punishment and are expected to conclude in April.