When only a flogging will suffice
Amid all the industrial and other tensions of the past week, the heavy rains and incessant flooding in parts, it is understandable why the latest UNICEF survey didn’t get the kind of “flogging” one would have expected.
And we mean that quite literally since the purpose of the study was to assess public perception of and attitudes towards the use of corporal punishment in schools and homes across Barbados.
Based on the results, you may not be too surprised to learn that the attitude of Barbadians to corporal punishment really has not changed. In this age of enlightenment when others would have us renege on our traditional principles and values and go the way of the world, they would do well to acknowledge that as a proud Caribbean people our resolve is not easily shaken.
In fact, when put to the test, it tends to become more mule-like –– just look at our Prime Minister. As it is with him and his weighty silence, it is with us and our response to critics who would rather that we bend and cower at their every beck and call.
So, yes, the way of the more enlightened world would suggest that corporal punishment in this modern era amounts to cruel and inhumane treatment –– just as it has been deemed with hanging.
But is it really? We are not talking about severe beatings in the way we have seen administered by mostly angry black women in a fit of rage over the conduct of one of their charges. Surely, anyone who would raise a chair, a table, or blade to a child and use it for reasons of discipline should either be in prison or a mental institution for treatment –– and we make no apologies
for saying so.
However, any right thinking individual, who has spent half a day with a group children would know that to spare the rod altogether is to spoil the child. Indeed, there will always be instances when our charges need a stern correction.
Growing up, most of us certainly got one when it was necessary; and, in most instances, we have turned out to be model citizens.
What is worrisome though in this era of acknowledged children’s rights –– as important as we believe they are –– is the irrefutable concurrent increase in deviance plaguing our society.
The word used by the president of the Barbados Union of Teachers, Pedro Shepherd, to describe the situation at one secondary school was “chaos”.
We have also taken note of the recent behaviour of many of our young men and women who now seem proud to be counted among the criminal element, devoid –– as they seem at such an early age –– of any feeling of remorse for their wrongdoing, and for whom a court appearance these days is like a Hollywood audition.
It begs the question: when did the breakdown in discipline occur?
It is little wonder that Barbadians continue to cling to the whipping rod, even though, as the UNICEF study shows, the majority know that children feel humiliated when corporal punishment is administered to them.
Indeed, half of the respondents supported the use of corporal punishment in schools, while the majority –– 77 per cent –– said it should not be banned in homes. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents –– 86 per cent of those 600 people surveyed –– were of the view that parents should be the ones allowed to administer corporal punishment.
Asked about flogging in school, 38 per cent felt that senior teachers and principals should be allowed to flog children, while 21 per cent said it could be done by any teacher or any adult in authority.
“It is clear that public opinion in Barbados is still hostile to the idea of banning corporal punishment across the board and this will most certainly discourage policymakers from making bold steps towards abolition,” the report noted in its conclusion.
“On the other hand, the majority of respondents –– 56 per cent –– felt that corporal punishment was not important for raising or educating children. Even more encouragingly, 87 per cent thought that one can discipline children without using corporal punishment. The relevant ministries are therefore advised to adopt an advocacy strategy that targets the aspect of the issue with the greatest appeal within the public domain and to continue stressing the advantages of non-violent discipline practices,” UNICEF added.
Our own assessment of the results is that Barbadians are not ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The wayward of our charges must be brought back in line from time to time; otherwise mayhem will abound.
Government and lobbyists, take note!