August 10, 2012
SVG to mull banning corporal punishment in schools – Minister

The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines will soon have to evaluate whether it will ban corporal punishment in schools.{{more}}

Minister of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Family, Persons with Disabilities, and Youth Frederick Stephenson attended the 23rd meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) in Guyana, where member states were urged to opt for “full prohibition of corporal punishment”.

The meeting, which focused on Children and Youth, was convened under the theme “Charting our future: an integrated development agenda for children and youth”; and was chaired by Dr Frank Anthony, Guyana’s Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport.

“It would take some serious discussion on it. We would need to involve everybody, including the media, to help sensitise the public to the matter,” Stephenson said in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT last Thursday.

He spoke of the model adopted by Belize, which has already done away with corporal punishment in schools –– despite public pressure to retain it.

“We still have corporal punishment here … but basically it should be used as a last resort,” said Stephenson. “I don’t know whether it helps or doesn’t help with the behavioural patterns of some of our young people and children in school.”

He pointed out that any evaluation of the issue would be handled by the Ministry of Education.

Stephenson also said that there were several other issues discussed, which were of pressing concern to SVG. Namely, sexual abuse/incest, childhood obesity and youth unemployment.

Regarding sexual abuse of children, Stephenson said: “That one … raised a lot of concerns. Some of these things don’t really come to the fore unless it becomes overbearing.”

He said that plans are currently underway to set up a hotline where children or other concerned parties can contact the police directly (and anonymously, if preferred) to report incidences of sexual abuse against minors.

“We have operationalised the Crisis Centre and … should have a launch speaking about it very soon.”

Childhood obesity was also a point of concern for Stephenson, who explained that the CARICOM Secretariat will be putting together a dietary guideline that member states can adopt and adapt to suit their populations.

“A lot of our children are overweight because of the food we provide for them to eat! I’ve seen school children from as early as 7:30 in the morning with corn curls and a bottle of soda.”

On youth unemployment, he noted that there needs to be more of a push toward skills training and encouraging the youth to establish careers in the creative industry.

“The challenges are there, in terms of financing, but … we have to help our young people look at the alternatives,” said Stephenson. “The public sector cannot employ everybody.”

Other matters discussed at the COHSOD meeting included development of inter-sectoral committees to deal with child/youth related issues regionally, progress made in implementing training and certification for teachers and carers who work with children, violence in schools, risks to health of children and adolescents, and children affected by migration.(JV)