Corporal Punishment
……A proven alternative needed - teachers

Kaieteur News
January 8, 2007

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The Ministry of Education is at fault, simply because teachers aren't properly trained to deal with indiscipline in the classroom. This is the view of some school heads and teachers.

The teaching profession consequently is deeply divided on whether or not to abolish corporal punishment (CP).

The Ministry of Education has acknowledged the wanton misuse of CP and has attempted to address the problem by distributing a ˇ°Manual of Guidelines for the Maintenance of Order and Discipline in Schoolsˇ±, which was completed in February 2002 and disseminated to all schools.

In it, substitute approaches to dealing with unruliness in schools were suggested.

Detention, counseling, student governments, field trips for students to correctional facilities, and cost recovery for loss or damage to property by students, are some of the suggested alternatives.

Parenting sessions will be aimed at enabling parents to be responsible for unacceptable behaviour.

Warning letters to parents about their child's indiscipline, and special Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, to deal with indiscipline, are some suggestions to include parents in the discipline process of their children, according to the manual.

Responding to the manual, teachers said that schools are not provided with sufficient counselors and rehabilitation facilities. Furthermore, because of the level of indiscipline, suspension and detention simply do not work, they said.

And parents do not have the time to look in to affairs which are entrusted to teachers.

According to the teachers, resources to implement the suggested substitutes are sparse or even non-existent in some public schools. Teachers are over burdened as it is.

The majority of teachers are of the belief that corporal punishment (CP) is the only existing means to maintain control since effective alternative options do not exist.

However, one head teacher insisted: “The maintenance of a rigorous timetable to keep the students continuously engaged has been working for me…Teachers should take a preventative rather than curative approach to maintain discipline.”

While the continued use of CP in schools is a contravention of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, local legislation approves its use.

It is to be used for serious or repeated offences only, and it shall be administered by the head teacher or by an assistant teacher, over the age of 20, authorised by the head teacher. Whenever a head teacher authorises an assistant teacher to administer corporal punishment, it shall be administered in the presence of the head teacher and under his direction and his responsibility.

Whenever CP is used, an entry shall be made in the punishment book, with a statement of the nature and extent of the punishment and the reason for inflicting it.

However, one school head said that some teachers take advantage of CP's legality.

In an interview with this newspaper President of the Guyana Teachers' Union , Colwyn King, said, “…the law of the land permits for corporal punishment to be administered by head teachers but this should be revised to allow other senior teachers to be able to administer it since this places undue burden on the head teacher.”

He added that CP should be maintained within the set guidelines.

“Countries that have banned CP are now calling for it to be re-instated because of the resulting lawlessness that currently exists in their schools and society.”

Because alternative institutions are not available to deal with indiscipline, teachers are left to play the role of mother and father, King further noted.

Using alternatives such as standing at the back of the classroom, King said, is sometimes viewed as a contravention of the rights of a child and CP more or less becomes the only alternative.

King emphasized, however, that CP should be used as a last resort.