As we commemorate International Children’s Day today, we acknowledge and support the recent call of the former chairman of the Children’s Authority, Hanif Benjamin, to make corporal punishment illegal in both the school and the home. Working Women has long advocated for an end to this practice.
At this stage of our development as a nation, we need to ask ourselves whether “licks” is a solution in a society where family violence is so pervasive, and where alternatives are available.
What corporal punishment teaches children is that interpersonal violence, both physical and psychological, is an acceptable means of solving conflict and dealing with stress. It is not surprising, then, that corporal punishment in the home and school has been linked to high levels of domestic violence.
The act of beating a child is violence inflicted on a person who is physically weaker and who has no means of self-defence. Even worse is the fact that children are dependent on their parents for their emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
When a parent/caregiver or teacher inflicts violence on a child, it damages the bond between that child and the adult, leading to distrust.
Corporal punishment still occurs in schools despite the call for teachers to use their knowledge of psychology and classroom management to create a positive classroom atmosphere. Being beaten in school doubles the burden of those children who already live under abusive situations in their homes.
However, teachers cannot successfully manage classrooms without a strong and agile student services support division, diagnostic systems and targeted, ongoing professional development.
The limited training in classroom management that teachers receive is certainly not enough, and we call on the Ministry of Education to increase and intensify professional education in this area.
The damage caused by a culture and practice of corporal punishment has encouraged progressive societies to end its use through intense advocacy and education, social support systems for families, and restorative approaches to justice.
Covid-19 presents an opportunity for rethinking unsustainable practices, and encourages the creation of new norms. We need to embrace this opportunity and end a practice that has no place in Caribbean societies seeking to develop robust and peaceful family cultures.
Working Women for Social Progress