No more beatings! Holness commits to ending corporal punishment - Boy's hand broken in latest teacher-abuse allegation

Published: Friday | December 11, 2009

The youngster shows the arm, in a cast, which was allegedly broken by a teacher. - Contributed

Minister of Education Andrew Holness has said that the Government will be looking to enact legislation to ban the use of corporal punishment in schools in the next legislative year.

"We will be looking to legally ban corporal punishment in schools," Holness told The Gleaner yesterday.

The minister was responding to reports of an allegation that a five-year-old student had his arm broken after a teacher punished him last month. This is the second such incident in recent times as another child was hospitalised after accidentally being hit in the eye by a teacher, who was punishing another student.

Latest incident

Allegations in the latest incident are that on November 19, a teacher reportedly used a large wooden ruler to hit the child for allegedly kicking another boy.

The teacher who is from a rural school is to appear before the Buff Bay Resident Magistrate's Court next Wednesday.

Police are withholding the name of the teacher. The authorities have, however, confirmed that the parents of the child made a report of the alleged abuse two weeks ago.

Holness, who told The Gleaner he was not personally aware of the situation, said the Ministry of Education did not condone the use of corporal punishment or any type of punishment considered inhumane.

"The ministry is very concerned about the continued use of corporal punishment in schools, particularly in primary schools and the early-childhood years of primary schools," he said.

Holness said the ministry was in the process of developing behaviour-management strategies which would be documented and which would form the standard operating procedures for how children were to be disciplined.

He also said that while there was not social consensus on the use of corporal punishment, the Government had taken a moral and practical position on the issue as it was a signatory to various conventions on the rights of the child.

The parents of the child are now demanding justice from the Ministry of Education.

Earlier signs of bruising

The mother of the five-year-old, who spoke to The Gleaner yesterday, said a day after the beating, a huge swelling appeared on the boy's right arm. She said there were earlier signs of bruising.

"I was first told by the teacher that she hit him on his bottom," the mother said.

"But upon questioning my son, I learned that she (the teacher) used a board ruler to hit him on his hand. The following Monday my son's father took him to see the principal, but he was told that it was because of his (his son's) complexion why the bruise was visible."

The boy was taken to Port Maria where an X-ray revealed that a bone was broken.

The mother also alleges that all attempts to resolve the matter peaceably were shot down by the teacher, who abused her verbally on several occasions.

According to the mother, by then, she had made an official report to the police.

Begged not to pursue


"I was later contacted by the principal of the school, who begged me not to pursue the matter any further. This was the same principal, who had earlier advised me not to seek medical attention for my son, as I was only wasting my money. She literally begged me not to report the matter to the Ministry of Education, as the school might be closed. I later learned from the principal that the teacher is not certified."

Principal of the school, Leilah Jumpp, refused to comment, saying the matter was now before the court.

Checks with the Ministry of Education's Region Two office gave similar results, as a senior source at its headquarters also refused to comment.

The boy, who now has his right hand in a cast, has been out of school since the incident on November 19.

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