Submission to Support the Abolition of Corporal Punishment in Schools in Guyana

March 15, 2013
The Clerk of the Committee,
Special Select Committee On Guyana’s Commitment
To The United Nations Human Rights Council
With Regard To
The Abolition Of Corporal Punishment In The Schools,
The Abolition Of The Death Penalty And
The Decriminalization Of Consensual Adult Same Sex Relations And Discrimination Against Lesbians, Gays, Bi-Sexual And Transgender Persons
(Resolution No. 23 Of 2012) Committees Division
SASOD, as a human rights group, is in full support of abolishing corporal punishment in schools.
Physical violence is masked as corporal punishment in all spheres of Guyanese society, homes, schools and other institutions, and it is a significant contributing factor to the violence that prevails and plagues our society today. Such behavior towards children teaches them at an early age that resorting to violence is an acceptable way of dealing with:
·         intense emotions, such as anger, anxiety and stress;
·         to deal with conflict; and
·         that it is acceptable for people in authority to foist their will, rules or ways on those in their care through the use of brute force, in this case corporal punishment.
Further corporal punishment attacks the child's body and not the problem itself. It is useless if the goal is to correct a particular behavior. Rather it communicates and instills hatred and fear in the child.
Some persons believe that because their religion sanctions beating children that it is an acceptable form of disciplinary action, but those same religions also endorse many other human rights abuses that we consider abhorrent in civilized society today. Besides, Guyana is a secular nation where religion should be separate from the state and without undue influence on public policy and law making. Anything less would be regressive and colonial.   
The Ministry of Education has a ZERO tolerance policy on bullying, yet it is acceptable for teachers to beat children, as we have seen being reported in the local media. Is this not a form of bullying? The power lies with the bigger person, in this case the adult in charge.
To put it simply, beating children in Guyana's schools is an abuse of the power of adults over children. Guyana has to overcome a history of institutional violence being used, as was in the case during slavery, indentureship and colonialism. We are now an independent country and must move away from these barbaric, archaic practices which our current laws legitimize.
 The 2005 UNICEF/Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security/Red Thread Report "Voices of Children: Experiences with Violence" states:
"The 2002 Ministry of Education guidelines state that corporal punishment of children should not be used by class teachers, but only by the Head Teacher in extreme cases. However, during this survey, children reported that corporal punishment is administered more often by teachers in the classroom than by the heads in Schools."
The report identifies not doing school work well as among the six most common reasons for the administration of corporal punishment in schools. Twenty percent (20%) of children interviewed said that they received corporal punishment for such things as not finishing work, not writing fast enough, and spelling words incorrectly. This indicates that corporal punishment is not only being used as a means of imposing discipline but to penalise children whose only 'crime' is performing below expectations in academic subjects. This group will include children who may be dyslexic, abused, or have mild physical disabilities.
The use of corporal punishment in this way is all the more intolerable because by creating a psychological association between physical punishment and school work, it encourages children who are unable to satisfy their teachers to believe themselves failures and this no doubt contributes significantly to the dropout rate. The 2005 report also states that:
"Children often mentioned being physically and emotionally hurt by the use of corporal punishment and even described being 'beaten bad' by their teachers [resulting in] swelling of hands so that it was difficult to write, leaving permanent marks on their skin, leaving them so humiliated that they could not concentrate on their work, or leaving them too afraid to ask for help."
The UN Secretary General's Study on Violence against Children suggests that there must be a turning point - an end to adult justification of violence against children, whether accepted as “tradition” or disguised as “discipline”. There can be no compromise in challenging violence against children. Children’s uniqueness - their potential and vulnerability, their dependence on adults - makes it imperative that they have more, not less, protection from violence.
Indiscipline throughout our institutions and throughout our streets is the product of women and men who suffered corporal punishment. The failures of reason and the easy recourse to violence in every situation in Guyana come from women and men who suffered corporal punishment.
We therefore call for the removal of the corporal punishment provisions from the Education Act and for legal abolition of corporal punishment in Guyana.
Tags: Children's RightsStatement