Corporal punishment is from a fossilized system

Image from The Hindu

Another interesting letter to the editor in one of our newspapers on corporal punishment. Clearly, this fellow studied Bio. Not quite sure about that foray into Social Darwinism  but otherwise a sound piece.

Dear Editor,

In recent months, I have observed an upsurge in the publication of missives in the print media, vis-à-vis the very controversial issue of Corporal Punishment in Schools. I ask that as a young person, I be given space in your newspaper, to represent my views on this matter.

It is the youths who are the major stakeholders in whatever outcome is arrived upon, and who have been silent observers in the ongoing countrywide consultations being undertaken by the Ministry of Education.

I agree with the sentiments conveyed in Kaieteur News’s editorial titled “Children as chattel,” on June 1, 2012. For readers who were not aware, “chattel” is the French word for “possession,” and quite appropriately connotes the blatant disregard and unimportance with which the students are being treated, during the consultation exercise. It seems as if the adage that “children must be seen and not heard” is still the view of the current administration.

It is my firm belief that corporal punishment is a barbaric act which is incongruous in a seemingly ‘modern’ society.

Contrary to popular belief, corporal punishment has not been banned in Guyana. Article 9 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act (1894) ratifies “the right of the guardian or teacher of a child to administer reasonable and proper punishment to the child”. In 2002 the Ministry of Education released mere “guidelines” to govern the administering of corporal punishment.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Article 19.1: “States 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.”

Guyana became a signatory of this legally binding convention in 1991. The United States is not a signatory and as such, individual states decide whether or not corporal punishment will be allowed to take place in public schools. However, 31 states have outlawed corporal punishment and its use is declining in others, unlike what is sometimes portrayed locally by corporal punishment advocates.

Corporal punishment invokes a multiplicity of adverse effects on individuals. It is violent, lowers self-esteem, instills hostile behaviour and encourages the use of violence to resolve problems. It is a psychologically degrading act which causes humiliation to the victim. It is no surprise that the multitude of persons who advocate this form of abuse, are middle aged individuals, who would have long forgotten the pain and anguish experienced as a result of this inhuman act.

Guyana is indeed a country of strong traditional values. The use of corporal punishment is enshrined and encouraged in many of our religions. The verse “spare the rod and spoil the child” stands out almost instantaneously. However, it is with great disgust that I hear persons alluding to these “cherry-picked” instances, in a bid to justify the malicious treatment of children.
It is nothing short of absolute hypocrisy, as they do not follow all the teachings of their religious doctrines.

Surprising to say the least, are the views of most members of the teaching-sphere, who say that corporal punishment must stay, since there are a lot of indisciplined students in the school system, who are rude and disrespectful.

I, in no way, tolerate such behaviour by students, but question the motives of instilling corporal punishment in such cases. Would the purpose of corporal punishment be to force the student to become respectful to the teacher? Or is it a mode by which the teacher can avenge his/his seemingly hurt ego?

Many persons believe that children must be beaten because the same was done to them, and today as a result, they turned out to be “OK.” But I ask, what is the meaning of “OK”?  How can so many persons claim to have turned out OK when the society is marred by domestic violence and chronic alcohol abuse? How is it OK when we live in a country that is so deeply polarized? Are they willing to accept being OK and neglect the possibility that they could have been better human beings, had they not been inhumanly treated while they were children? Is there an inmate in the penitentiary who can honestly claim to have never been beaten while in school?

Is it safe to assume that our most notorious criminals were never beaten as children? Are these people even listening to themselves when they engage in such malarkey?

In modern biology, the theory of Natural Selection is popularly accepted. It is a process whereby only individuals which are best suited for an environment, survive and produce fertile offspring.

It is sometimes referred to as “Survival of the Fittest.” If the Guyanese society is to not only survive, but also to progress in a modern world, we must be willing to adapt. We must forego our “fossilized” mentality and implement fundamental changes.
It is unreasonable for the burden of instilling good moral values and discipline to rest on the shoulders of the school system. Teachers are already tasked with going above and beyond the call of duty, to be occupied with not only educating, but also ‘raising’ children to be good citizens.

We must look at the issue of societal decadence and violence from a grass-root perspective. It is the home and the community that must be held accountable. Parents need to be role models for their charges, so that they do not turn to idiotic and criminal musicians and artistes for guidance. This is the 21st century and we must adopt modern means of disciplining children.
There is no dubiety in the fact that corporal punishment can be considered a form of “physical violence.” It is therefore inconceivable that the Government refuses to ratify the abolition of corporal punishment, thus breaching international convention.

The current consultations reek of asininity, as the only internationally legal outcome would be a ban on all forms of corporal punishment. Is the Government really going to defy an international agreement which it became a voluntary signatory of?
 Mahendra Doraisami

Taken from Kaieteur News.

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