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Teachers are still beating children - MOE official

Published:Tuesday | August 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMLeon Jackson

Western Bureau:

Despite being a breach of the Child Care and Protection Act, Maxine Headlam, regional director of Region Three in the Ministry of Education, says some schools are still using corporal punishment, much to the chagrin of the ministry.

"When I meet with the principals, I tell them the Ministry of Education will not offer any support if they run afoul of the law and are taken to court," said Headlam, in explaining the ministry's position. "Teachers must find creative ways to maintain discipline," she said.

Dr Lisa Beth Crossman-Nugent, a psychiatrist with the Western Regional Health Authority, says corporal punishment is not only unlawful but also degrading.

"Teachers must use their training and use creative ways to punish students rather than to resort to corporal punishment," said Crossman-Nugent, who is based at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. "That form of punishing is an example of teachers taking out their anger on the children. It is always when anger is present that children are flogged."

"All forms of corporal punishment leaves a 'scar' on the child," added Crossman-Nugent.

Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on The Rights of Children outlined clearly how the State should address physical violence against children.

According to the article, "(It) places a duty on states to take legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse ... ."

Ivanhoe Gordon, education officer for Trelawny, recognises that the practice continues despite the law and the psychological concerns.

He said that children were the product of a society where physical punishment is the only form of discipline to which they respond. Gordon, who is a former principal, said, "The act says no, and I respect that, but I, too, live in the society."

The principal of a prominent Trelawny high school who asked not to be identified said that he does not engage in corporal punishment, but admitted that teachers at his school do.

"I know my teachers do it, and I understand," the principal said. "These kids, especially at grade seven level, know nothing else. Even by just taking the strap and placing it on the desk helps in the maintenance of discipline."