Beating ban stands - Amid Opposition calls, education ministry stresses corporal punishment remains against school regulations
Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Youth Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has called for a ban on the use of corporal punishment in all schools and has asked that a system-wide programme to give educators alternatives be started.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites had on Tuesday indicated that the ministry discourages the use of corporal punishment, although it was not illegal. His comments came as the debate on the issue has been reignited after a teacher at the St Richard's Primary School in St Andrew was charged with assault after hitting a student with a ruler.
"The Government must lead and must set the example. During our recent time in Government, former Minister of Education Andrew Holness banned corporal punishment in schools because he recognised the damage being done to our children through maintaining the practice of beating. We understand the concerns of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, but we know there is another way," Johnson Smith said.
The Ministry of Education has, however, said that there has been no change in the policy regarding corporal punishment, and that it is already implementing a programme of positive intervention.
NO POLICY CHANGE
According to communications director at the ministry, Byron Buckley, "The policy position of the ministry on corporal punishment has not changed from what obtained under the previous administration. The ministry currently has a suite of behaviour-management programmes in operation under the [islandwide] positive-intervention system framework [for schools]. In addition, intensive training of deans of discipline has been done this year."
United Nations Children's Fund Deputy Representative Lone Hvass told The Gleaner that the organisation is currently funding a positive-intervention programme for schools, which addresses the issues of corporal punishment and provides alternatives of positive reinforcement to teachers.
The National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) has since responded to a lament from Jamaica Teachers' Association President Norman Allen that there are no alternatives available for teachers to discipline students.
"Guidance and counselling methods can be used to effectively curb the behaviour of children. If a teacher believes their life is being endangered, it is recommended [that] they remove themselves from the situation and seek the assistance of a guidance counsellor, a parent, or a relative that is respected by the child. Instead of using frightening and shameful punishments, positive reinforcement is more effective in achieving long-term behavioural compliance," the NPSC said in a release.
The Dr Patrece Charles-Freeman-led commission has urged schools to keep channels of communication open, thereby facilitating students discussing their own ideas and visions, even if they differ from the school's ideology.
The commission, which is an agency of the Ministry of Education, has indicated that it is strongly opposed to the administering of corporal punishment in educational institutions.
"The NPSC strongly believes the act contradicts the responsibility of our nation's schools. It is harmful to resort to physical punishment, regardless of a student's aptitude or willingness to conform to specific tasks. If a student loses focus, or becomes too anxious, corporal punishment serves no constructive purpose," the commission said.
According to the commission, "Teachers who use corporal punishment methods are setting an example that violence can be utilised to settle problems or solve conflicts. Students, therefore, are more likely to use violent acts to settle their own conflicts with others."