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‘A short sharp shock’ - Education Minister not opposed to some corporal punishment in schools

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is urging teachers not to beat students who fail to do their homework or give wrong answers to questions asked in class.

But Thwaites has made it clear that he is not opposed to what he calls a "short, sharp shock" to curtail disruptive behaviour in the classroom.

"The teacher who hits a child because they haven't done their homework or because they have got their answer wrong is clearly out of order," Thwaites said while sharing his views on corporal punishment during a meeting with The Gleaner's Youth Council at the ministry's National Heroes Circle headquarters recently.

Thwaites opted to meet with members of the council after they penned an article urging whichever party forms the next election to "Fix our broke and broken education system".

According to Thwaites, while he wants to see the eventual elimination of corporal punishment, he finds that the ministry is yet to come up with a "replete and universal programme of alternatives". As such, he is not opposed to principals or designated senior teachers administering corporal punishment in certain situations.

"Normally, if corporal punishment has to be applied, it ought to be the province of parents, not teachers, not school officials. But the fact of the matter is that, in many cases, parents are either not available, do not care, or the urgency of the situation warrants a different response where a child has done serious, serious damage or potential damage to another child," he explained.

"There may be a case - never in public, never in anger - but there may be a case of using physical sanction," the minister said.




The education ministry has been called upon in recent times to clarify its stance on the use of corporal punishment in schools. This call was prompted by the recent arrest of a teacher for allegedly injuring a student with a ruler.

"The sanctions that are applicable under the Education Code of Regulations 1980 are completely inadequate to deal with the levels of antisocial behaviour in most of our schools and, therefore, my own view is that it requires a progressive position rather than an absolute one," the minister said.

The Gleaner's Youth Council is made up of youth advocates that are part of a UNICEF and Respect Jamaica youth advocacy programme called Y-Klick.

The council has also had responses to its submissions from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, the opposition spokesperson on education, and Julian Robinson, state minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.