If some students at the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School had their way, flogging would no longer be administered at the island’s schools.
They made their views known today during a two-hour long debate at the Parkinson Resource Centre in Pine, St Michael on whether Barbados should abolish corporal punishment in schools.
However, their position was at variance with some of members of the so-called Seniors Parliament who had invited them to participate in today’s session, held under the chairmanship of the assembly’s convener, former parliamentarian and social activist Hamilton Lashley.
In the end, the majority – 11 speakers – voted abolition, while six seniors voted against.
The students argued that corporal punishment was sometimes misused by teachers and suggested alternative forms of discipline, including in-school suspension. They also argued for enhanced communication between teachers and students.
On the other hand, proponents of corporal punishment were of the view that if society were to maintain high moral, spiritual and professional values, the school must be allowed to enforce strict discipline.
One member, who referred to the school as “a major institution in socialization”, said “teachers must be given respect, empowered to fearlessly challenge bad behaviour, and should be supported in preparing children to be responsible, respectable and accountable citizens”.
However, outspoken senior member Roland Waithe drew a link between corporal punishment and slavery, saying it was disappointing that in the 21st century, students were being beaten to “conform to what adults say is right”.
“Communication is the key to everything,” he argued, emphasizing the need to explain to children they should not engage in a particular type of behaviour.
“It will help them better when they become adults. For me, beating inflicts two things: fear and pain. Leave out the flogging because it has negative effects on some children,” Waithe said.
However, Tyrone Lowe argued strongly for corporal punishment to remain in schools, explaining that lashing students was meant to prevent an offence or wrongdoing from happening again, by instilling, or associating fear with the undesirable act.
He acknowledged that not everyone was in favour of corporal punishment or even saw it as appropriate, but insisted it was a way of addressing “naughty” behaviour.
“I am yet to see evidence from the educators, psychologists, policymakers and even radio announcers to support that life in schools has become better [in circumstances where corporal punishment is no longer applied]. Things have actually grown worse.
“Teachers are getting spat on, being threatened and disobeyed without restraint. It could not happen in my day when all teachers had power to share lashes. And no one died from those beatings – in fact they made us respectful of authority, obedient to standards and appreciative of our worth,” Lowe said.
Today’s discussion came against the backdrop of a recent CADRES study on corporal punishment in Barbados and other Caribbean countries, which found that Barbadians seemed “less excited about the idea”.
Pollster Peter Wickham, in presenting the findings back in February, said the information had been gathered from polls done between 2004 and 2014, as well as public opinion polls carried out in 2009.
Wickham revealed that in 2004, support for corporal punishment in the Barbadian home was at 80 per cent and 69 per cent in schools.
In 2009 it had dropped to 75 per cent in the home and 54 per cent in schools.
However, by 2014 while it had remained relatively steady at 77 per cent in the home, that support had dropped drastically to just 50 per cent in schools, he said.
Just last month, Minister of Education Ronald Jones also 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 and 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,” Jones 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,” the Minister of Education added, even though flogging has not been outlawed in schools.