CORPORAL punishment in schools will be suspended as of 1st May, 2019 with a total ban sometime next year, according to the Ministry of Education.
The announcement has since stirred up debate amongst persons who engage in the act notably teachers and principals. No one has asked students, who are at the receiving end of that type of punishment, their views on the subject because all believe its automatic that a student would abhor such a form of punishment. There seems to be general consensus in the country that abolishing corporal punishment is a good thing. But is it?
According to the Oxford American Dictionary, corporal punishment is punishment by whipping or beating. The question that needs to be asked is what really goes on in our schools that necessitates the abolition of corporal punishment? Are children whipped to a point that their buttocks, backs, shoulders or other parts of their bodies are aflamed with pain? If so, that would quite certainly justify an immediate ban of corporal punishment.
But what if the whipping or beating translates to a few strokes of a belt or ruler on a student’s hand. Would that be justifiable use of corporal punishment? One might ask whether the term ‘corporal punishment’ is the proper term to use for delivering three, four or five strokes on the palm of a student’s hand. The term is rarely, if ever, used to describe the beatings students receive at the hands of their parents at home, which are certainly not a few strokes on the palm of the hand.
President of the Saint Lucia Teachers’ Union Julian Monrose, Monday said his union will not and is not going to discuss the pros and cons of corporal punishment neither will it discuss the Ministry of Education’s decision to suspend and later ban corporal punishment. What the Union is protesting is the manner in which the Ministry made its decision.
“The Ministry of Education was disrespectful and it is the modus operandi of the Ministry of Education. They feel they could do anything, anytime, anywhere, anyhow without consulting the practitioners – the real practitioners,” Monrose said referring to teachers and principals.
“We are at the schools, we know what obtains. We are in the kitchen; we know how hot it is. We are the ones holding the handles that are in the fire, we know if it is hot or if it is cold, not the Ministry of Education,” Monrose added.
As far as the Teachers’ Union President is concerned teachers should have been consulted before the Ministry took the decision to suspend and later ban corporal punishment.
“We are just saying this is not how you do things, that we ought to have been consulted and that teachers ought to have been informed in a better way and that the Ministry needed to put things in place,” Monrose said.
He noted that in local schools, teachers are playing all kinds of roles and that there is about one counsellor to about 800 – 900 students in a school district.
“What serious impact can they (counsellors) have when you are overworking them? Where is the support? You do not just wake up and change the culture without giving the necessary support,” Monrose articulated.