Welcome

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.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Supporting An End To Flogging: The Need For A Lead From Government

Each nation should chart its course. Jamaica has a very difficult path to carve for itself, economically, socially, psychologically, and even spiritually. As I look at the physical carnage perpetrated each day as shown by those mind boggling murder statistics, I know that the country has a heart that has much kindness. It is often evident in people's daily dealings with each other. As I thank my lucky stars that the burden of finding the right economic policies to get out from under the weight of debt does not sit on my shoulders, I marvel at the way that for decades Jamaicans have found a way to survive and do more than eke out a pauper's existence. Of course, not all income is declared. Of course, barrels make a big difference. Of course, the investment schemes put a lot of money into pockets and financed spending almost out of thin air; now that balloon is burst and down to Earth many will fall.

How to deal with discipline in a society is never easy. In the Caribbean, our slave history in part seems to have given us a readier acceptance of what I view as sanctioned abuse, in the form of flogging. While there are signs that views on the acceptability of this are changing relatively fast, it is not and may never be universally accepted. So, it's good to see a push coming from legislators, because the desire to do the right thing is not easily translated into laws and systems.

I was heartened to read that at a high political level, Jamaica has decided to put an end to flogging and whipping (see Gleaner report). The Public Defender has spoken clearly: "such a punishment constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment". This follows a declaration from a backbench MP, Gregory Mair (North East St Catherine) that not only were the laws backward but represent a stain on the people, given their history. I could not agree more.

Barbados is still working its way towards a wider acceptance that flogging is not the way to go. A new CADRES poll, under the auspices of the Barbados Union of Teachers and UNICEF, shows that public acceptance is waning (see Nation report). As reported by pollster, Peter Wickham, it's overall finding is that, while 'in 2004 a UWI/CADRES national survey demonstrated that 69 per cent of Barbadians supported flogging in schools and when this view was tracked in 2009 it found that now only 54 per cent of [Barbadians] support it'. He argues that better education has much to do with this change, but notes too that absentee fathers make disciplining children a harder task and a single mother seems more ready to resort to flogging. The poll is also interesting in showing that a substantially larger majority of people favour flogging in the whom over flogging in schools.

I can ally myself to Mr. Wickham's conclusion that 'The trend both here and elsewhere in the world is such that corporal punishment will eventually become unpopular and successive generations will not resort to it by choice, however, this day is still sometime off and it is therefore important that Government appreciate its responsibility to protect the children of our nation, while we wait for Barbados to become more enlightened on its own. '

1 comment:

WizzyTheStick said...

Interesting post. May I add that it is not enough to implement laws to outlaw flogging as has been done in Trinidad. There is a 10,000 fine or jail term for corporal punishment. There was no attempt to educate teachers or parents about alternative methods of discipline and as such there was no real belief that a system without 'licks' would work. It didn't and for a time teachers adopted a hands off stance. Well they say I can't beat so...(shrug) let the children run wild. My hands are tied.
Parents actually give teachers permission to 'cut his tail' if the child misbehaves! So it is the law not to administer corporal punishment but little has changed and flogging continues in schools with everyone pretending it doesn't.
Like it or not corporal punishment is very much part of our culture. There is a fear that without it our kids will adopt what is perceived to be 'rude' American answer back ways. As a society we need to examine the cultural implications and embark on national discourse about the matter. The Education department of UWI should get involved in research and development of local systems to be implemented in lieu of corporal punishment. Adopting behaviour management strategies wholesale from the United States does not always work. Finally after discourse and research, a public education campaign, parent and teacher workshops, ad campaigns should be conducted to ensure that all stake holders have a shared understanding and strategies for dealing with discipline without having to resort to use of corporal punishment.