Minister of Education Ronald Jones today called for those who “brutalize” children by flogging them to be thrown in jail, as he made an impassioned appeal for the abolition of corporal punishment.
Speaking at a gala to mark the opening of Child Month, Jones labelled the practice, which many Barbadians strongly support, as abuse.
“Flogging is not discipline. It is abuse against the child and anyone who abuses a child should be taken before the court and jailed if they are found guilty,” he said.
“If, as a modern nation, we can’t talk to and reason with our children and only brutalize them, we are a lost nation. We cannot create gems of the nation through brutality,” he added.
Jones acknowledged that there are children who have problems but said adults needed to decide whether to offer them understanding and compassion or turn their backs on them.
“Questions I ask myself: Should we as adults screaming for our own rights forget the rights of a child? Should we ask that child to leave and be abandoned on the highways and the byways of the country where all kinds of nefarious individuals exist?
“Or should we say to that child, ‘Come unto me, I will listen, I will offer compassion, I will give you understanding, I will give you hope to rise again?’ Are those things we should be saying or should we be saying, ‘Get out of the classroom, get out of the house, get out of the nation?’”
Jones said changed behaviour in a student should be a clear indication of a cry for help. “The child in the classroom who hitherto was a bright child, a friendly child, a smiling child and then there is a dramatic drop in that child’s behaviour and performance, that is a troubled child.
“Something has gone wrong. Might be a victim of something I do not know. We say that they are our future, so we have to ask them questions so that they can give us answers to find purpose and direction.”
Jones said he believed everyone should be given a fair chance including those who society believes have gone astray. “No one should be cast aside. The Good Book says if one sheep goes astray, it tells you go after that one that has gone astray and give them [the] opportunity to come back into the fold. Sometimes, we are so harsh that we keep chasing.”
The minister, who is at the centre of a row with teachers due to his refusal to meet with the membership of the Barbados Union of Teachers, expressed concern about the number of children exposed to abuse, stressing that flogging was not the way. “Our children are exposed to too much abuse. The verbal nasty, stinging, derogatory word that maims and cuts the heart and soul out of our children and they respond because they know how we make them feel and then on top of that, we bring brutality to their flesh.”
“Let us [offer] . . . words of understanding, hope, compassion. Let us give them the love that they are crying out for. We have some excellent young people in this country. I see them in schools, in church,” Jones said.
“Let us give hope to the hopeless, let us praise those who most need it, let us embrace our children, let us embrace our young people, give them an opportunity to rise and an opportunity to help this nation to rise.”