That thin line between discipline and abuse

Almost daily, Guyanese discuss the many issues positively or negatively impacting their collective lives. The recent upsurge in criminal activities involving young people has reignited the debate on whether the absence of strong disciplinary measures within the nuclear family setting and learning institutions is a strong contributing factor to such anomalies. Much emphasis has been placed on the issue of child abuse; almost every discussion and debate pertaining to the proper and efficient rearing of children seems to suggest that the abolition of corporal punishment is largely responsible for the upsurge in social ills and criminal acts within Guyanese society. There is a comparative theory that defines the size of a car’s windscreen as against its rearview mirror. The theory emphatically denotes that going forward should be the basic aim, but glancing backward should not be totally eliminated. Guyanese born up to around the late sixties could attest to the curtailing factor of the wild cane. In those days, even the elder brother and sister were vested with responsibility for keeping the young siblings in check. Such ‘courtesies’ were further extended to the school environment, and the sight of some teachers wielding that wild cane was enough to send loiterers and others engaged in deviant activities sprinting for refuge. These days, it’s the parents and teachers who are being punished after doling out punishment. One of the supportive theories is that children left to their own devices will engage in demeaning activities that, in the end, attract stiffer, life-defining penalties, thus the need for early intervention. Unfortunately, this methodology is, according to the naysayers, counter-productive and only leads to unchecked deviancy among the youths. The bosses at the Ministry of Education (MoE) have clearly defined their stance on this tremulous issue, and the disciplining of learners has rightfully attracted much debate over the years. There are, also, divided views on the legal and moral extent to which educators can enforce corporal punishment. Meanwhile, the general objective of the officials of the MoE is the maintenance of order and discipline within the learning institutions, which begs the question, “Are such rigid policies contributing positively to the prevalence of desired/ acceptable behaviours?”
The MOE further pronounces that several important variables must be attained within the walls of learning: (1) a healthy and supportive school climate to support the teaching/learning process, (2) a spirit of teamwork and group cohesion among the school population, (3) safe school environment, (4) respect for those in authority (5) strong home/school/community links (6) meaningful use of instructional time, (7) child -friendly school environments, and (8) respect for peers and schoolmates, among others.
Obviously, those methods are not as foolproof as they are thought, as children spend an average of 60 hours per week in the school environment, and the balance of their time is purportedly under the care of their parents. While in the school environment, they are under the instruction and guidance of their teachers. When they return home, their parents are expected to take over the reins. Even so, there must be collaboration of the two groups, parents and education providers, with the sole objective of raising and grooming our children to be assets of a greater macro policy. Obviously, there is a need for educational classes where the many variables missing from previous disciplinary strategies at schools must now be examined and compared for credibility.