Mechanisms must be in place to prevent abuse

Dear Editor,
The Caribbean Voice (TCV) supports CPIC Monique’s call for civil society to get involved in the campaign against child abuse. We also agree that tackling child abuse in all its forms – physical, sexual, emotional and psychological – needs “outreach, family-based prevention and home visiting, and school-based models to meet families where they are and to help them build their new lives and hopeful futures”. Indeed, mechanisms must be put in place to foster the involvement of civil society.
One such mechanism is our Youth & Student Workshop, which has been endorsed by the Education Ministry and already has been taken to a number of private schools, but for which we are awaiting permission to take to public schools across Guyana. This workshop focuses on arming young people with alertness and awareness with respect to abuse and violence (domestic, gender-based, sexual, physical, substance-related, online) and equip them with knowledge, self-esteem, self-confidence and coping skills to face challenges and stress.
Within this context too, we expect to soon launch a National Youth and Students Essay Contest, also endorsed by the Education Ministry that would become annual. This year’s focus is on suicide, with the aim of getting young people to engage in primary research and information eliciting within their communities and in developing models for redress thereby becoming change agents on the social landscape.
Meanwhile, the media – traditional and social – recently publicised a case of corporal punishment that left a student bleeding and in pain. There have been many similar cases over the years and this begs the following questions: Are doctors required to report such cases of child abuse to the authorities for investigation, or is it simply a question of parents seeking redress without assistance?
Why is the cane still used in Guyana, when the country that exports it has banned its use in the classroom?
Did this teacher teach his students homework/study skills, or he just expects his students to know how to do homework and study? Did this teacher have or considered having a conference with the parents? Did this teacher have or considered having a discussion with other teachers of this child so as to find out whether any perceived behaviour is across the board or only unique to his/her instructional time/subject? Can the administration in a private school immediately relieve a pedagogue of his/her duties or agree to a psychiatric evaluation/mental status evaluation when these kinds of mental aberrations occur? The bottom line is that there should be a clearly defined process of disciplinary action by the Education Ministry to address corporal punishment that must also include possible psychological help for any teacher who displays the tendencies inherent in the actions of this particular teacher.
TCV needs to point out that a training workshop on “Classroom Management Without Corporal Punishment” was offered free of charge to the Education Ministry in the previous Government and also to the current Government. The previous Government pulled the plug at the last moment after TCV and the VSO (which has since pulled out of Guyana) had put measures in place for the workshop. The current Government has not acknowledged our offer to date.
A network of non-governmental, community-based and faith-based organisations can be a critical element in the fight against abuse. And Voices Against Violence, the loose umbrella of some 60-plus such entities, that organises the annual Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil, already provides such a vehicle for networking and collaborating.

The Caribbean Voice