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Declaring zero tolerance on corporal punishment, Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis yesterday reminded all teachers in the nation’s schools that it is illegal to physically punish students.
His comments came a day after a Penal grandmother complained that her grandchildren were struck by their teachers in separate instances for dropping a book on the floor and for going to the washroom without permission.
In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Francis said the ministry’s position on corporal punishment was clear.
“The ministry does not condone corporal punishment and teachers know that it is against the law to hit students,” he said.
Francis, who spent most of his years in academic teaching, said he also never believed in administering corporal punishment.
“There comes a time when the child becomes unconcerned about being hit. It does not work except to harm the child. There are other ways you can discipline a student,” Francis said.
“My experience is you empower the child and build a relationship with them. You motivate them to do what is right and if you are successful in empowering them, they will do what is right.”
He added that rebellious children are not necessarily a bad thing.
“Students should ask questions and challenge their teachers intellectually. It is how the teacher reacts to this challenge is what is important,” Francis said.
He noted that he did not have any information about the incident at the Penal school but noted that the matter is now under investigation.
Francis also said the ministry’s Student Support Services will provide counselling to the pupils if needed.
Meanwhile, the children’s grandmother said yesterday that a schools supervisor contacted her yesterday and requested that she file an official report about the incident to the ministry on Monday. She said the official also advised her against going to the principal for a meeting.
The grandmother said she was relieved that the ministry was investigating the complaint, adding that it was not the first time that a teacher had beaten students. She said the children were being physically disciplined for no good reason adding, “it is time that teachers realise hitting students is against the law.”
On Wednesday, the woman’s nine-year-old granddaughter told studentsher that she needed to use the washroom and her teacher was not in class, so she went because it was an emergency. When she returned, however, the teacher struck her on the hand and said she was not to leave without his permission. The grandmother said a year ago the same teacher also forced the child to stay back after school, causing her to miss the bus and having to walk home afterwards. The grandmother accused the teacher of putting her child’s life in danger by letting her walk home.
The issue was also raised in Parliament yesterday, where Government Senate Leader Franklin Khan told UNC’s Wade Mark the incident was being investigated, “following which (probe), appropriate follow-up action will be taken if necessary.”
MORE ABOUT CORPORAL PUNISHMENT
In February 2001, the then Education Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar pioneered legislation which led to a ban on corporal punishment in schools.
The National School Code of Conduct (2009) of the Ministry of Education states that corporal punishment should not be used.
According to the United Global Initiative: “Corporal punishment of children breaches their fundamental human rights to respect for human dignity and physical integrity. Its legality in almost every state worldwide—in contrast to other forms of inter-personal violence—challenges the universal right to equal protection under the law.”
Article 4 of the Children Act 2012 also confirms the right of parents, teachers and other persons having lawful control of a child or young person under the age of 16 years to administer “reasonable punishment,” but excludes corporal punishment from this only for persons other than parents or guardians.
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