Full Disclosure
August 19, 2005
The Education Bill

By Saboto Caesar

The question of corporal punishment or “beating in schools” has surfaced as an issue for discussion at all levels in our society in recent times.

However, there seems to be a stream of misinformation as to what the nation’s legislators are intending to do. This distortion is quite unfortunate, and especially so since the Bill represents a starkly different position from what is being entertained among many as street talk. {{more}}

I had the humble privilege of addressing the Diamonds New Testament Church of God on the issue of Corporal punishment in schools during its recently held Youth Week, and I was stunned at the level of misinformation as it relates to the Education Bill’s proposed approach to “beating in schools.” It is now clear to me that most persons are of the opinion that the Bill was designed to abolish beating in schools altogether. This is however certainly not the case.

On the issue of “beating in schools” there appears to be three positions being advocated in our society. Namely, there are those persons who are totally against beating period. Then some of us share the view that beating although necessary, must be done in a very controlled and more “civilized manner.” Then there are some at the other side of the extreme who firmly believe that beating should be at the discretion of the teacher and consequently that every teacher should be vested with the power to beat as he or she sees fit.

The Education Bill adopts the approach that “beating in schools” should be administered controllably. The Bill therefore supports the position that Corporal punishment may be administered in schools but ONLY as follows:

Firstly, it can be done in circumstances where no other form of punishment is considered suitable. In this situation the teacher would be allowed to punish the child using a prescribed instrument, after which the reasons for and the extent of the beating must be recorded in a punishment book.

Secondly, beating should only be administered by the Principal, Deputy Principal or a teacher specifically designated or assigned to that task.

The whole intention is simply to prevent the act of beating from falling into the hands of the teacher who may accidentally or intentionally choose to abuse the situation. I know for a fact that abusive teachers are in the minority. However it is also true that while there are many “rude” children in classrooms, there are also some teachers who are not prepared psychologically to administer beating in any justifiable fashion. We must remember that one “bad” teacher can make the entire teaching service look bad.

A most interesting section though, is section 53(7), which allows the parent or guardian to send a letter to the school stating that their child should not be beaten, and in the event that the teacher knows that such an objection has been made but pursues a course of punishment by beating he/she commits an offence.

Does this spell the abolition of beating?

What this section in effect does is to place in the hands of the parent or guardian the power to prevent a teacher from beating their child where such has been placed in writing and addressed to the Principal.

I however foresee a slight complication here in practice, for lets say that Jack and Jill are both class bullies deserving of licks for some misconduct, but Jack’s mother had sent a letter saying he must not be beaten, this leaves poor Jill alone exposed to physical punishment. I would definitely not want to be a Jill in that case.

But another take on the issue is this, if our society is at a stage where the pens of the parents are guided to write the principals of schools stating in ink that their children should not be beaten, then those who want to see otherwise must only consider themselves as swimmers against the tide.

It will be interesting to see how many parents or guardians would submit letters stating that their children must not be subjected to beating in schools.

This is emancipation month and many seem to still associate the belt with slavery. I however do not subscribe to that view at all. Others have another take that if we spare the rod the child may be spoilt. But what exactly is the rod? Can’t the tongue be used as a “rod”? I stand corrected on the issue.

In short though, whatsoever side of the fence we may choose, one thing that is and should remain constant is that, “Manners begin at home and end abroad”.

• Saboto Caesar is a Barrister and Attorney-at-Law. He is a community worker and a 1999 national scholar