Ministry of Education, Guyana

Wednesday, 10 May 2017 09:00

Regulate extra lessons – COI proposes

…as calls made to re-examine corporal punishment

The possibility of regulating extra lessons has been one that has been deliberated on by Commissioners of the recently completed Commission of Inquiry [COI] into the education system.
The Commissioners of the COI have discussed and proposed a recommendation that requires that persons be licensed ahead of conducting after-school lessons.

This disclosure was recently made by Chairman of the COI, Ed. Caesar. According to Caesar, “One of my commissioners wrote something that I like…We have to regulate lessons; we have to give a licence for after-school lessons and make it in such a way that people recognise that it does not impinge on what is supposed to be done during the day.”
According to Caesar, extra lessons should not be work that is counter to what happens during the day. Instead, he noted, teachers should still be responsible for ensuring that the delivery of the curriculum is in place fully during the day.
According to the COI Chairman, “Years ago at places like Queen’s [College] and [The] Bishops High School, you use to have certain things happen to you when you didn’t ‘fall in line’. These days as soon as school is dismissed persons are running for lessons; parents are out there blowing their [vehicle] horns.”
Back in the day Caesar recalled that the disciplining of students, where necessary, was expected and could have included a student being tasked with writing an essay during detention.
The notion of discipline in the school system has also been an issue that has gained the attention of the COI.
Although there have been many debates questioning whether corporal punishment should be allowed, the practice is one that never really left the school system.
According to Caesar, “there are documents from the Ministry [of Education] which clearly indicates the manner of disciplining that exists…The act still exists in a controlled way.”
The administration of corporal punishment is reserved for the head teachers of the school or a senior teacher who must be supervised at the time of disciplining the child.
Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, upon assuming office had shared his concerns that such acts are still being practised in the school system and intimated that corporal punishment can often lead to psychological scarring as it is no different from physical abuse. He said that classrooms should not be a place of fear but rather, one of learning.
The Minister said that he was looking to do away with the archaic practice by adjusting relevant legislation in the near future.
He spoke of plans too to establish a central counselling body and the need for trained counsellors to be attached to each school.
According to Caesar, “Teachers are of the view that if corporal punishment is taken away from the school system, indiscipline will prevail, and [some] parents are of the view that teachers should ‘bust their children s’ tail’.”
Moreover, he noted that there is a need for the Ministry to re-examine the status of corporal punishment and discipline on a whole in the schools. “It has to be done,” Caesar insisted.
The Guyana Teachers Union [GTU] in recent years has been very vocal about their disagreement whenever the issue of eradicating corporal punishment in schools was brought up.
GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte has said publicly that the “union’s position remains the same on the issue. We are not supportive of corporal punishment being taken out of the schools, as the Ministry is yet to put alternatives in place to deal with aggressive children.”
Lyte said that when various [proven] alternative measures have been put in place, only then will the union rethink its stance on corporal punishment.
“Unless the Minister provides effective measures to deal with badly-behaved children, we as a union must say that this must remain.”
The need for Welfare Officers was also highlighted as teachers are said to be ill-equipped to deal with children who may need counselling. Lyte stated that the current systems in place relating to Welfare Officers are poor at best. It was stated that two Officers will have to cater for 40 to 60 children.
It was Lyte’s view that teachers are often left with nothing to ensure students are kept in line. The only measure in place which gives them some semblance of authority is corporal punishment, he continued.


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