Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Sir Frank Peters
Corporal punishment has been kicked about and given another well-deserved trashing, not that I condone
violence of any kind.
This time it was put on the rack, held up to ridicule, and tortured by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.
Last week Jayantha Prema Kumara Siriwardhana, a ‘teacher’ at Puhulwella Central College of Matara district was found guilty of violating the fundamental rights of a 15-year-old student by beating him and rupturing his eardrum.
The school principal, zonal director of education, secretaries to the Ministry of Education, and the Attorney General, were hauled before the court to answer charges. Upon hearing the evidence, the ‘teacher’ was ordered to pay the boy 150,000 Sri Lanka rupees while the government was ordered to pay him Rs. 500,000.
The panel of Supreme Court judges comprising justices S. Thurairajah, Sisira de Abrew and Murdu Fernando said the student’s rights had been violated.
The Sri Lankan constitution states: “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
When corporal punishment was outlawed in Bangladesh on January 13, 2011 by justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif, they defined the horrible act as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom.”
The Sri Lankan Supreme Court justices, in a lengthy judgment, held that corporal punishment was not a method of disciplining students and there was a responsibility on the State to ensure its eradication.
Justice Sithampbarampillai Thurairajah, PC said: “Corporal Punishment as a method of discipline is ineffective for multiple reasons.”
He went on to say: “This method of correction teaches children to fear violence and normalizes violence as opposed to bringing any sense of understanding of the wrong committed or of the true societal value of discipline,” he said.
“The behaviour is avoided in the future not due to understanding of the wrong committed, but due to the trauma of violence. Encouraging corporal violence normalizes violence, undermines the dignity of a child, and inflicts trauma in children, which is reflected in unhealthy and disruptive behaviour as adults. Corporal punishment disregards the integrity, autonomy, and dignity of each child.
“We must also recognise that adults are protected by law from similar incidents as it would amount to criminal use of force, assault, and other crimes against the person.
:Children as minors and vulnerable members of the society, when hit, injured, traumatized in the name of discipline or punishment, must not be left defenceless and unheard when faced with such violence.
“Normalising violence as in the instant case is unacceptable as this leaves voiceless minors vulnerable in the face of mental and physical violence and trauma,
and we, as an institution of Justice would be failing in our duty to allow for such normalization of violence and victimization of children.”
Madness in the classroom
So, if we’re not barbarians, how is it possible to perform such barbaric acts on children – the most defenceless and vulnerable members of society? Don’t expect to find the answer here, but here are a few examples of the barbarous cruel acts:
• The hand of an eight-year old student in Pindigheb, Pakistan, was fractured and the poor kid had bruises all over his body when his ignorant brutish ‘teacher’ vented his anger upon him. The ‘teacher’ was suspended.
• A class eight girl at Kibargoyet Primary School in Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya, was left paralysed from the waist down and is now using a wheelchair after she was hit by teachers with a piece of wood that damaged her spine.
• Azile Mbokhwe, a ‘teacher’ in South Africa, lashed a pupil 55-times… yes, you read correctly 55-times… on her palm and the back of her right hand with a stick, fracturing bones. But… but… but the sordid story doesn’t end there. The student testified that Mbokhwe first administered
15 lashes on the back of her right hand.
The girl withdrew her arm after the 15th lash, but this only enraged Mbokhwe. She added 20 more strokes on the back and palm of her hand. A little while later, Mbokhwe decided to hit the learner another 20 times!
Mbokhwe was sacked by the school, but then had the audacity to cry foul and take the school to court claiming her dismissal was unfair! – Unbelievable! Needless to say, the case was thrown out of court.
If you’re thinking all of these horrific, unkind, inhuman incidents happened on foreign soil, you’re right. Don’t
think for one moment, however, they cannot happen here because they already have – some even worse. Some stories reach the printing presses of the national dailies,
but the majority do not.
Only ignorant and stupid parents would send their children to a school knowing it to practise corporal punishment and risk damaging their child for life. It is a well-known fact that corporal punishment just doesn’t work, it is evil and wrong and performed by evil, ignorant, or shameless people (or a combination of all three).
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.
It has been made crystal clear, countless times, that corporal punishment is ineffective as a disciplinary tool. It can only be assumed, therefore, that those who use it, are not only immoral, inhuman, but also insane.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, a humanitarian and a royal goodwill ambassador.