Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lashings Of Good Things-REDUX

Further to my commentary yesterday in Lashings Of Good Things, the follow on from yesterday's pictures have been interesting in the press and on other blogs. In the press, David 'Joey' Harper has a very good take (see Advocate), also reprinted below:

As A Matter of Fact: It was licks like peas


By David 'Joey' Harper

Over the past years, many social issues have surfaced: we have spent significant time on matters of domestic violence; drugs; sexual exploitation; irresponsible parenting; declining interest in education; flogging in schools just to name a few, and within current times, abandonment of children – from foetuses to minors.

And the most recent development to attract the attention of the nation and create intellectual discussion, sometimes way above the people it should be seeking to gain their attention, is bullying.

A recent article on the front page of another section of the press read “Licks for latecomers”. The accompanying picture attracted my attention and for all the wrong reasons. When I saw this photo, my immediate reaction before reading the details was what is happening to this school- boy? This was accompanied by the second thought after reading the first line in the article “licks like peas”. Immediately, it made my mind drift back to the headlines that used to accompany articles coming from another territory where a gang was referred to as the “licks like peas gang”. Looking at the picture and the deportment of the ‘licker’ and taking into consideration the fact that this was a public beating of a child arriving late for school, inspired my final thought which was simply “What the heck is going on here?”

I have the greatest respect for the press, but this headline and the accompanying picture did no good to the child, the teacher or the teaching profession. Public floggings in the civilised world went out a long time ago except for in a few countries where it is still seen as a religious requirement for criminal acts. Even in the past, where here in Barbados flogging was an accepted form of punishment, it was on very rare occasions that children were flogged in public and never before the lenses of photo journalists.

Let me make it clear, I am not in favour of the total abolition of corporal punishment. However, what I subscribe to is sensible administration of any kind of punishment.

Natural physics makes it clear that every action leads to an equal and opposite reaction; a child beaten in public may grow up to be an adult who believes that public beatings will gain the reaction he needs. It does not take a genius to understand the social ramifications that can occur. Coming to school late is not a criminal offence, it is a disciplinary matter that needs to be addressed, and there is no question about that. But we adults have glamorised lateness, we have associated it with the designated explanation, “Man you mean Buhbadus time …?” and laugh off arriving half-an-hour late for an appointment without either an apology or explanation.

E L C Cozier once wrote an article entitled “Punctuality: The Politeness of Kings”. It should be resurrected and made compulsory reading for the aficionados for lateness.

I wonder if Matthew Farley has seen this most recent issue that has the capacity of growing into a national debate and again attracting significant attention from the enthusiasts of controversy who will bring bullying to a whole new level. I also wonder how Mr. Farley will respond when one of his students brings to him a picture from the newspaper to use as evidence when the matters of dress codes are raised, the question as to whether double standards exist as far as teacher and children are concerned? Or even if being a Rastafarian doctor allows for special dress privileges?

I am truly concerned about the direction our social values are heading. I am also concerned that in attempts to make change, we are trying to turn around over 30 years of negligence in dealing with issues that have not just emerged, hoping to change them in one year. Contrary to common feelings, change does not happen overnight, we do not wake up one morning and find ourselves fat, neither do we wake up and suddenly find ourselves void of moral, social or economic values. The change took time, ignoring little things have now led us to have to deal with major issues.

Dramatic solutions do not work. The children that we may be trying to change may have already been indoctrinated by the environment in which they were raised and coming to the press to send the message must be done in a controlled manner, always remembering that today’s children see no mystery in the printed word, but have become experts in reactionary environments taught by television, music and casual lying by those that are deemed the decision-makers.

As a matter of fact, surprising as many may think, children are looking for people who will not ask them to do as I say and not as I do, but to show them that right spelt wrong is still right, that living by the rules still has values, and that laying down the law as a family of people can bear results. Unless we truly recognise that children are begging to see their parents, teachers, priests, pastors, lawyers, doctors as positive persons to be emulated, they will continue to be late, lie, underdress and oversex, seeking out the environments where anything goes.

Doctor, principal, beating in the street is not a deterrent, but an added reason to believe that violence really works and that from belt to gun is a practical development. A word to the wise is enough, please do not make me speak too long.

The Barbados Family Planning Association came out with a clear condemnation (see Nation report), also reproduced below:

Family Planning head speaks out against beating students

Published on: 10/17/2009.

A VULGAR DISPLAY of barbarism!

That's how the flogging of students late for school was described by George Griffith, executive director of the Barbados Family Planning Association.

The flogging was done by a senior teacher at the St Leonard's Boys' Secondary School on Thursday.

Referring to yesterday's WEEKEND NATION photograph of one boy being punished at the school gate, Griffith said: "I believe we saw a violation of the child's fundamental rights and we saw an action which offends the child's sense of dignity and a real vulgar display of barbarism.

"I would advise any parent to seek legal advice because rights were broken and we need to start taking the rights of children seriously in this country."

Some students of the school arrived after 10 a.m. and were met at the gate by Dr Victor Agard who flogged them one by one for their late arrival.

Griffith expressed disappointment that St Leonard's Boys' was the only secondary school signed on to the United Nations Child Friendly School programme.

"I don't think the public humiliation can do the child any good and I have to ask the question what about the 'five star' schools in Barbados? I wonder if it would have happened at Harrison College, Lodge or St Gabriel's and I doubt very much," Griffith said.

He added: "It is a school which is nestled in what the young folks call the 'ghetto', close to working class Barbados and that is all the more reason why any attempt to discipline children must be done responsibly and humanely and should reflect a level of scholarship which utilises modern scientific approaches."

The issue sparked a heated debate on yesterday's call-in programme Down To Brass Tacks on Starcom's 92.9 FM and Griffith, who describes himself as an avid listener, also disagreed with many callers who supported the flogging.

"I heard people on the radio talking about how good the flogging was and these are clearly people who are stuck in the 40s and 50s, who are not far removed from the days when our parents were flogged at the will and fancy of not just the plantation managers but those they hired to drive us like cattle."

Griffith said more communication should have taken place to uncover the specific reasons for late arrival.

"It would have been far better for the school to have those children enter the school, engage them in some discussion as to why they were late and I'm sure the reasons will vary. We must bring the parents on board and even then, there are many variables that can affect punctuality and a child's performance overall."

Griffith hopes that in the near future, corporal punishment would be completely removed from the law books of Barbados and alternative methods employed. (PCA)

But there was a mix of condemnation and support from a wider public and the Nation reported on these also, see the sections reproduced below,

Readers split over flogging

Published on: 10/17/2009.


Digital Editor

TO BEAT or not to beat?

That was the question on our online edition yesterday as debate raged over the story of several St Leonard's Boys School students being flogged after arriving at school late.

Emotions ran high, with readers on both sides of the corporal punishment fence expressing strong opinions about the incident and about corporal punishment in general.

Several readers, particularly those in the Barbadian diaspora, were appalled at the semi-public flogging which was carried out at the school's entrance by senior teacher Dr Victor Agard.

"Barbaric, backwards and a human rights violation. Is this Barbadostan? When [were] the last public floggings? Is this a teacher or a Taliban leader? . . . The only purpose here is to rule through fear, intimidation, and embarrassment. I tip my hats to those kids who refused to take part in this barbaric act," declared one reader, Shocked In Canada.

Another reader, using the handle Proud Bajan Canadian/Ron expressed similar sentiments, writing:

"This flogging by the senior teacher is insane. He should be disciplined by the principal. If the principal [condones] this type of act, it should be behind closed doors. The days of flogging children at school should be abolished. There are other ways to punish for being late such as school suspension . . . This public view is ridiculous for overseas viewers."

100% Bajan In NY commented that "if it were my child being flogged in public, it would be lawsuits like peas" while New Jersey Gal termed the punishment "archaic in nature" and opined that "in some parts of the world that would be considered child abuse".

On the other hand, however, there was a strong show of support for Dr Agard's actions, with many readers singling him out for praise - one reader dubbed him "my hero" and declared that he should be considered "Teacher of the Year" for his disciplinary stand.

Other readers felt the same.

"Dr Agard, I salute you and please continue to give them a flogging. I know that those will never be late again," cheered Trolly.

". . . Dr Agard, when they are in your care, keep them disciplined," urged Baje In NY while Bajan In Canada thanked him "for having the courage to do the right thing not just for these particular students but for St Leonard's, our school system and our country".

In addition to praising the senior teacher, several other readers had tough words for the delinquent students, with many raising the point that school at St Leonard's begins at 7:50 a.m and the students had arrived after 10 a.m.

"Well I would say it's about time. When I see [the] students traipsing at not just minutes past 9 but all in half past, quarter to, and worse yet 10 or 11 [and] not just one or two that look like they could have some sort of excuse. It's nuff of them . . . If they learn that this lackadaisical attitude is alright, then of course when it comes to work, they aren't going to do anything at all," asserted Unimpressed.

"Bet he won't be late [any] more. I used to be flogged at school and it did not cause me any harm. Being late is disrespectful. Ten o'clock. What school was he going to?" questioned Bajan-ATL.

Another reader commented:

"I think that more schools should encourage the same. Turning up at 10 a.m. for school that started at 7:30 is blatant disrespect. This means that that student would have missed [two and a half hours] of the six-hour day - that is a lot and if a particular student is late everyday then it is possible that that child will become an under-achiever."

This is an important subject for public discussion and people's views should be expressed freely. Nothing may change but it would be good to get the impression that such a dialogue really can go on. There are other tough subjects where this is also needed.


AirBourne said...

You need to see my video, another St Leonard's teacher goes wild http://bajanreporter.com/?p=6940

Dennis Jones said...

The Nation reported on Dec 28, that this was all a prank, see http://www.nationnews.com/news/local/licks-like-peas-copy-for-web.