Monday, September 5, 2011
Corporal punishment to be banned in Sri Lanka
(Children are the future of every family, culture and country. They must be protected from persons who believe themselves to be in position of impunity. They must be nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity of fulfilling the potential that every human being has).
by Stewart Sloan
(September 02, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) A recent article in the Sri Lankan press announced that corporal punishment in schools, children's homes and prisons is to be made a punishable offense. (No corporal punishment, Daily Mirror, 2nd September 2011 by Sandun A. Jayasekara). This is incredibly good news for the thousands of innocents who are affected by corporal punishment every year in the country.
Frequent reports are received about school children, sometimes not yet in their teens, being severely beaten by their teachers and principals. The physical damage, which sometimes amounts to severe injuries such as partial loss of hearing, contusions and sprains, is only one part of the problem. The worst part is the anguish the child undergoes knowing that the physical punishment he has received is in no way justified by his alleged 'crime'.
Often the usual scenario is that the parents of the child find out about the incident and either go to the school themselves or the nearest police station to file a complaint. The educational authorities arrange for a reconciliation meeting between the teacher involved and the parents knowing full well in advance that they will support the version of the teacher. The child is considered biased; a trouble maker and someone who is simply trying to bring the school into disrepute. At the school the parents are given the teacher's version of the event. There is no fairness involved; the child was rude, obstructive and/or stole something from either the school or another student. The parents are forced to either accept the school's version of the incident or, if they feel that this version doesn't jell with that of their child they have the option of making a complaint to the educational authorities or the police.
What happens next is almost laughable in its commonality with all similar cases. What happens is absolutely nothing!
The situation is similar when the parents go to the police. The officers will take a statement from the child and the parents and then perhaps, if they are feeling diligent, take the child for a medical examination. Then, similar to the educational authorities they call the teacher in for a 'talk'. They listen to the teacher, weigh up the version of the child and without fail, support the version of the school. The end result of this is that the child, having suffered physical trauma, is then subjected to the embarrassment of being called a liar. Invariably, the child is either expelled from the school or simply refuses to go back for fear of ridicule by the teachers and other students. Many children are so traumatised that the incident brings their education to an abrupt end.
The Women Empowerment and Child Welfare Ministry is behind the move to introduce this law and are to be congratulated for its forward thinking. However, once such a law is introduced it is vital, absolutely vital that the government of Sri Lanka ensures that complaints made under this legislation are investigated thoroughly and with impartiality. Sadly, the speed with which Sri Lankan police officers are corrupted means that, as in the past, they will likely side with the school and teachers for a 'consideration'. This will simply make a mockery out of a law designed to protect children from persons in a much higher and more powerful position. If this happens it will be yet another example of legislation designed to protect the innocent being wasted.
Children are the future of every family, culture and country. They must be protected from persons who believe themselves to be in position of impunity. They must be nurtured, encouraged and given every opportunity of fulfilling the potential that every human being has.
(The author is a father of two, one son born to his first wife and the second one was adopted. He has worked as an English teacher with children as young as two and a half years).