MINISTER of Education Ronald Thwaites has sought to remind school administrators that corporal punishment should not be used in schools, and under no circumstance should it be used to reinforce academic performance.
Thwaites’s response comes in the wake of a Sunday Observer article yesterday in which Kensington Primary School Principal Carlene McCalla-Francis and the school’s Parent Teachers’ Association President Anthea Ramsay defended the school’s position of ‘slapping’ children if they perform below a certain standard.
The school’s defence of the practice has angered parents, one of whom complained that she had to remove her daughter from the institution after she had been beaten several times because her grade was just below the high standard.
Thwaites said that the practice is completely contrary to every principle that the ministry stands for and although he did not comment on the specific case, he said that an enquiry will be done this week to validate and supplement the report in the Sunday Observer.
“A clear policy has been given to schools that corporal punishment is not allowed with the normal running of the school and this is consistent with the laws and regulations,” he said.
The Child Care and Protection Act prohibits all forms of corporal punishment.
“I do accept that there will be very extreme cases of obstreperous conduct where a principal, having regard to age, circumstances and gender; may find it necessary to apply moderate corporal punishment. However, at no time should corporal punishment be used in order to enforce homework to be done or even work in a circumstance where a child has not done well in a test or in some exercise,” the minister said.
Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Clayton Hall refused to comment on the specific situation, describing it as “a ticklish one” but said that members are encouraged not to use corporal punishment.
“We generally encourage our members not to use corporal punishment but school administrators do make certain decisions based on the situation that they operate in,” Hall said.
President of the National Parent Teachers’ Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) Everton Hannam, while admitting that it is against the law to flog students, doesn’t believe it is the same if it is only a slap.
He said that the NPTAJ would seek to get more information from the Kensington Primary School administration to verify the facts of the case.
“At the same time we have to find ways and means as to how to administer disciplinary measures rather than just using that means which was abolished years ago. We have to be now creative in finding ways that have the same impact but also in a measured way so as not to scar or to create any challenges,” he said.
Hannam added that using that form of punishment as a means of maintaining academic performance was unacceptable.
“Administering that type of discipline so that your performance can be outstanding is not the way to go, if that is the case, and therefore any such happenings cannot be supported by a parent in any shape size or form. I am sure there are institutions where students perform and I don’t know that it is the route that they use to get those types of results,” he said.