By Leon SuseranCorporal Punishment does have a place in schools in Guyana. This was the collective view of several teachers and Head Teachers at the Government of Guyana Ministry of Education (MOE) National Public Consultation on Corporal Punishment which began Wednesday in Berbice.Attending the forum was Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, and several senior officers from the MOE. The issue of corporal punishment in schools has raised its head from time to time in the country, as there have been several instances of students being injured by teachers.On the flip-side,many persons have held on to the view that the upsurge in indiscipline in schools today can be credited to the absence of the use of CP. But CP has not been totally abolished in schools. However, under current MOE stipulations and regulations, only Head Teachers and Deputy Head Teachers (with consent of Head Teachers) or a specially designated teacher, can administer the punishment under strict guidelines.Each time the punishment is inflicted, a written entry must be made in the Misdemeanor Book kept by the school.Manickchand told a packed New Amsterdam Multilateral School (NAMS) auditorium that the MOE has a very comprehensive policy “of who can beat and in what circumstances of who can beat”. She reiterated the current policy of the MOE which cautions in the use of the punishment that [ordinary] “teachers are not supposed to hit…it is supposed to be administered by the head or deputy head teacher in a place away from other learners, privately”.Minister Manickchand said that CP was not really a debated issue in the past and that even religion catered for its use. “It was so acceptable,it was a normal thing but that was [in] an era when we thought it was okay for a man to beat his wife or for a woman to beat her husband”.She added,“We have been reviewing many of these things we thought were [once] acceptable because we are [now] more acceptable and civilized. Many countries have banned CP. Some countries, USA,for instance have banned it in some states, but it is still retained in some states”.Guyana, she stated, is at a crossroad “where we will like to hear from everybody how we feel about retaining CP in schools,not the home”.“At the end of the day, we have to decide what is best for the children we look after, understanding the different things… violence begets violence, spare the rod and spoil the child, and like the North American children, just wayward,“Also children will believe that violence can be used to solve another problem”.A teacher from the Berbice Educational Institute (BEI) stated that the question is not whether or not CP should be retained or abolished “but whatever happens, if it serves its purpose…If you have to flog,you have to flog for a reason and with discretion and with love”.He added that if “we talk about CP, let it serve its purpose, not to hurt the child”.The teacher stated that he does flog since he is a deputy head “and I am [still] loved by students with whom I administer whipping. We need to understand the intention for CP– if it [CP] is not for a good reason, please don’t do it”.The Head Teacher of the New Amsterdam Practical Instruction Centre (The Home Ec. School) said that she is trying a new method as an alternative to CP. She is using Biblical verses and talking to the defaulting students.“I am not saying don’t use the whip in extreme cases, but we can find various methods in doing so”. Reasoning at times,she said, is more effective “because the blows they [the children] are accustomed to, you can’t administer in school or you will be sent to jail”.However, while accepting the teacher’s position, Manickchand noted, “We have to be conscious that we are teaching children of every religion”.A teacher from the JC Chandisingh Secondary School (JCCSS) added that CP “has its place in the system”. He further noted that many teachers in schools have been reluctant to use the form of punishment since they are afraid that if used, they will be taken to the disciplinary bodies such as the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).“In most schools,they shy away from it, and as a result, there is a total breakdown of discipline. Teachers [have] turned a blind eye on issues that children will actually do in school because of the levels of violence”.Teachers, he noted, are really not aware of what students have in their possessions when they enter the school compounds and often end up in many instances being abused by some students.“If there is more opportunities for teachers to administer CP, we will be able to restore more order within the schools but I am not sure whether we as a people and as a nation having signed on to certain Conventions, can go against that”.The teacher recalled that he recently kept back a set of students in detention recently and later received calls from several parents of the children, some of whom went to the Child Protection Agency and reported “that I abused the children”.He added that he has since lost interest in those children and just leave them to do what they want.The Head Teacher of Crabwood Creek Primary tried a survey last week with parents at a Parent Conference and he found out that 64 parents wanted CP to be used in school, while 35 rejected the idea.MOE officer, Ms Melcita Bovell said,“If we want our children to grow up and be non- violent persons, then we have got to set the example and our teachers have put us in the hot- seat because you give them an inch and they want fifty yards…the next thing you know, we get the child that was on Facebook from Enterprise [Primary.”She said alluding to the matter whereby a child from that school was badly beaten and the photos were posted on the social media site.