Beating Down Corporal Punishment in Barbados – An Uphill Battle: Latest Sad Incident at Queen’s College is not Isolated but reflection of Primitive Desires poorly repressed
My regular readers know that for many years I endured an on/off brutal relationship with my father, it’s part of why I have no sympathy for creeps like Chris Brown or Joe Jackson. My parents were divorced on grounds of Physical Cruelty by my Father’s hand, which had many witnesses fortunately/unfortunately depending on how you consider it – I was 12 yet it is still fresh in my mind and I have mixed feelings… Not of sympathy for my Father, but should I be ashamed of him or should I be grateful my mother was able to escape his clutches even at a terrible price – having neighbours see him kick her while on the ground? Far less than what he did to me as in striking a Mahogany walking stick to my forehead as his Coffee was not done right or busting a Coke bottle at my feet and making them lacerated?
Forward to present-day, I attended the Queen’s College PTA by invitation (two of my regular sources – one is a Past pupil and their child also attends; while the other has offspring that also uses the same school), they had a horrible albeit isolated incident which was obliquely alluded to in the Saturday Sun about a fortnight ago. I learned exactly what happened and it reminded me of the brutality I endured from when I was 6 to 19 with my own Parent, and I decided no one else should have to go through what I did again.
I called the Chairman of the QC’s Board of Management – Novaline Brewster, my former Supervisor at CBC and as a former Journalist she did a wonderful job of stonewalling and refusing to answer my questions, I salute her for performing what was, AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED THROUGH THE VENUE OF FAIR USE & COMMENT, abusing her training to apparently uphold more ignored violence in Barbados.
If you recall, St Leonard’s has come under the Bajan Microscope more than once for what appeared to be both public & private flagellations rivalling what pertained to days of slavery… But this form of what some may consider as modernised Plantation Disciplinary Measures happens not just at St Leonard’s or Queen’s College but also at Princess Margaret Secondary School and I called there to speak to a so-called Educator who allowed a parent to openly flog their child in front of a class and as far as I know? THEY APPROVED OF IT! However, when I called the teacher in Question directly on their Cell number, they bluntly refused to respond using the cloak of Public Sector to obscure their mistake.
It is also my understanding that both St Michael’s and even Harrison College are supposedly guilty of this practice, it seems that if Teachers are not to set their hands on pupils then once Parents can be convinced their children are a fork-tail short of becoming an Assistant for Son of the Morning Star, then they are urged to come on down and give their own flesh & blood at least six of the best (Do Educators or Parents stop to think what this does to the Trust between them and the child in question? Would they really let that pupil/son/daughter mix them a cup of tea or make lunch for them ever again? I know I’d turn Dexter for sure! Lock up the cleaning materials, folks – Ian is about to prepare a Meal!), do we need to hack a bamboo switch for you?
Not letting the matter rest, I called the Education Minister of Barbados, Ronald Jones, on his personal Cell, I also texted him apart from sending a Private Message to him via Facebook… All of which he is yet to reply? I know he’s busy, but so caught up in his Acting duties that he can’t just send back an SMS indicating he has no response until further research? Wow, he’s such an Actor it’s a wonder he did not get an Oscar the other night, he could have pulled one for an Adaptation of the Tom Clarke novel – The Prime Minister, but only in an Acting capacity, of course! 😉
Having been frustrated every step of the way, including at the PTA meeting despite Moderator peter Wickham’s attempt at opening communications (see video), I made sure at the end of the discussion to mention as a comment since I cannot query as I am not a Past Student/Have no children attending/Nor am I a Teacher there… I spoke of how Parents can go too far, having been such a victim more than once in my Life, then I advise they deal with the incident which Traumatised 1 Alpha before it haunts them when they least expect it. Their Principal finally got up and explained a Report was sent to the Ministry of Education and it is under review therefore he is not at Liberty to elaborate on the situation.
Here’s what happened based on a parent recording an eyewitness report from their child who is not just a pupil of that class, but who is a buddy of the maligned 11 year old in Question… Here goes , goofs & all;-
On 2 February 2011, a serious incident took place in the classroom of 1 Alpha, at Queen’s College. On this day, a father was escorted by the Principal of the school, Dr. Browne, into the classroom where his son and 28 other students were. The father asked his son to come forward, at which point the father made the statement, “You will never do anything like this again,” The father then removed his leather belt, and proceeded to whip his 11 year old son. The child, according to several witnesses, did not cry, and this was interpretted by the father that it was not hurting enough. The father then proceeded to “cuff” his son in the chest and face. It was at this point that the Principal then interveened and stopped this public beating. The 28 children that witnesses this inappropriate behaviour were disturbed, and upset. Many of the children, who were all male, were in tears, and feared for their own safety. The teacher fled the classroom to seek assistance. The father, the son and the Principal then left the classroom, and it is understood the father was allowed to leave the premises with his son. The child was suspended from school, and did not return until February 10, 2011.
Several parents, on learning of this situation, immediately attempted to speak with Dr. Browne, but were unable to. Discussions took place with the Guidance Counsellor and other teachers. On 7 February 2011, several parents again attempted to speak directly with Dr. Browne, but were not provided an adequate audience, and were verbally told by Dr. Browne that he was fully aware of the father’s intent when the father was escorted to the classroom.
Several parents have written directly to the school, the Board of Management, and the Ministry of Education. To date the responses have included:
1) Dr Browne has had one on one meetings with 3 parents, and expressed the opinion that he made a bad decision taking the father to the classroom, but that he stands by the father’s right to dicipline his son. Dr. Browne personally fealt that the situation got out of hand when the father started cuffing the child.
2) A Committee of the Board of Management has met with Dr. Browne, and they are satisfied that he (Dr. Browne) has taken all necessary corrective measures to ensure this incident does not happen again. They have indicated they do not plan to take any further action.
3) Dr Browne has met with the students in this classroom and apologized for the situation.
4) The Chief Education Officer has been verbally briefed and has requested a written explanation from Dr. Browne. I don’t know what has happend with this this request, or the letter.
No parent, to the best of my knowledge, has received any written communication from any of these entities, and there has been no formal or informal communication to the parents by the school, the Board of Management or the Ministry of Education.
- Nothing has been done to the father who chose to physically and mentally abuse his son in this barbaric way.
- Nothing has been done to draw this situation to the attention of the wider parent population at Queen’s College.
- Nothing has been done even to ensure that all of the parents in this class have been fully informed of the situation, despite a promise by the Principal and the Board of Management that an all parents meeting will be held.
- Nothing has been done to formally reprimand the Principal for his actions, and his abuse of power.
This situation is unacceptable on so many levels, and parents and teachers that are aware of this situation do not feel this has been fully addressed. This act of public violence has apparently happened in other public schools in Barbados, and it remains both unreported by the media, and unresolved by the Ministry of Education. The only “hint” was the reference to this situation in the Nation’s Puddin and Souse on Saturday, February 19, 2011.
- Under The Education Act 1981 Cap 41, it states that head teachers, and senior teachers have the power to adminster corporal punishment. No where does it state that a parent is permitted to adminster corporal punishment on the grounds of the school. Under the criminal act, the father could/should be arrested and charged with committing a criminal act. If this father had opted to commit this same act on the streets of Bridgetown, he would have been arrested. However, he is allowed to do this with no consequences in a public classroom, under the watchful eye of the Principal of this school.
- Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904, Cap 145, it proscribes assualt, neglet and “unnecessary suffering” of children under 16 years. Section 4 preserves the right of parents and teachers to punish children. It states, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to take away or affect the right of any parent, teacher or other perso having the lawful control or charge of a chold to adminster punishment to such a child“
If we interpret this law the way the Principal of Queen’s College has interpretted it, there is nothing to stop anyone who is left in the care of any child under the age of 16 from whipping, cuffing, or beating a child under their care. Is that what we want in Barbados?
Interestingly, and very worth noting, The Child Care Board Regulations 1985 prohibits the use of corporal punishment in relation to a child in a day care centre or a residential children’s home run by the Board, and corporal punishment is not allowed in private day care services. However, according to the actions taken by the Principal and the Board of Management at Queen’s College, it is perfectly OK for a parent to come in and whip and cuff his 11 year old son, as long as the Principal says , “Oh, I’m sorry“..Oops!
How can we as a society claim to be a progressive, developed and civilized when this is allowed to happen, with no consequences?
The following officials are fully aware of the facts of this case:
- Novaline Brewster-Chairman of the Board-Queen’s College
- Reverend Gerry Seale-on the Board of Management for Queen’s College
- Dr. Browne-Prinicipal of Queen’s College
- Mr. King-Acting Chief Education Officer
- Minister of Education, The Honourable Ron Jones
- Ms Jemmot-Guidance Counsellor, Queen’s College
- Ms Inniss-teacher at Queen’s College
This is not a discussion on whether or not corporal punishment should be allowed in schools. This debate needs to happen, but it can’t be discussed and debated in tandum with this situation. Corporal Punishment is allowed in schools in Barbados, but there are clear rules that define how it is to be adminstered, and this Principal and the parent in question stepped way out of these bounds. Corporal Punishment does not provide Prinicipals, and senior teachers with an open option to beat a child nor does it grant this power to any parent, supervisor or adult who is left to care for a child. Queen’s College has a tradition of not adminstering corporal punishment which makes this situation even more shocking.
If by highlighting this situation, we can engage in an open discussion on corporal punishment, then that might be the one good thing that comes out of this very sad situtaion. But please don’t confuse the two. What happened at Queen’s College on 2 February 2011 was very sad. A father chose to physically and mentally abuse his son, and he also chose to subject 28 other young minds to this sensless violence. The message that has been sent so far to everyone involved is that this type of violence against children is OK, and acceptable. I for one do not agree with this, and I believe if this situation is exposed to a wider audience, we will find that the vast majority of parents in that class, and the vast majority of people in Barbados, will not condone this. The Principal needs to be properly reprimanded, and the father needs to be charged with assault and battery. Those that chose to cover up this situation need to be exposed, and we need to provide an open forum for other parents, teachers and students to come forth with their own stories of abuse of power by teachers and principals in our school system.
There were both parents and teachers there who just wanted the whole situation to die a natural death and are quite open on that, but is that fair to the child who endured that horror? Granted when it comes to School Indiscipline for Barbados that QC is least likely to have pupils physically fighting each other – but then is that not all the more reason to make sure that not only the Parents punishing kids never happens again, but to counsel both Father and Son for the public tragedy?
I really would love to know and plan to consult the necessary officials in the following – What would the United Nations local Branch have to say if they learned of this matter? Does not UNESCO and the UNDP assist in funding Barbados with various projects to develop CHILDREN? How does this Incident speak to the UN’s International Human Rights convention on what are the Rights of the Child? What future funding would there be if we have no better methods of raising children than Dickens’s Beadle?