Do you think our schools have sacrifice the emotional safety of our students in favour of their physical safety? Emotional safety is simply defined as the freedom to express one’s self without repercussion from others. There are some in the society who continue to lament the ban on corporal punishment in our schools. While this view maybe controversial, it is my opinion that corporal punishment was responsible for creating a set of emotionally damaged Jamaicans who now finds it difficult to fit into a modern society. Research now tells us that social and emotional safety is just as important as physical safety for our students in order to ensure the holistic development of the child. Feeling safe is a basic and fundamentally important need for all human beings. When children do not feel safe because of the fear that they will be flogged it hinders the teaching/learning
experience and no one benefits. As a society we need to strive towards the
creation of a culture of zero tolerance against violence at all schools in
order to have all students and teachers safe.
Have you ever asked yourself this question? Is my child safe at the school he/she
attends? If you answered in the affirmative you need to think again. As a
parent have you ever conducted a safety audit at your child’s school? Have you
ever taken the time to walk the physical plant and inspect your child,s school?
A safety audit may just mean to walk the grounds of the school, or you may need
to work in collaboration with the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) to set a
convenient time with the school administrator to inspect the labs and other
facilities at your child school. There is often a tendency for us to overlook
some simply things which oftentimes are the key indicators of an impending
problem. Maybe the time has come for us to do background checks on the staff at
our schools. In this twenty first century sometimes people regardless of their
titles and qualifications are not who they present themselves to be, things are
not always what they seem to be on the surface.
A parent who is keen and know what to look for can in a relative short space of
time develop a fair assessment of how safe his/her child will be at a given
school. While all these checks are of a physical nature they do impact the
welfare of your child and by extension the emotional safety of your child. Do
you know for example if asbestos was used in the construction of the school
your child attends?
It is also useful to have some emotional safety tips in order to guide our
students’ welfare: We should encourage our students to express feelings and
opinions regularly. This is usually not encouraged in many classrooms in
Jamaica as this challenge to authority is often misconstrued as being
insolent. However, having this outlet provides an environment where our
students will develop the necessary self confidence and positive self esteem to
be successful in life. As stakeholders in the education we must foster a
classroom environment where everyone’s opinion is valued and laughing at or
degrading the opinions of others is not acceptable behavior. Too many of our
students are belittled and bullied daily.
Secondly, we need to create a classroom environment where our students’ goals
are respected. The classroom should be a place where we offer students a place
to outwardly succeed and express their desires or goals without worry or fear
of being laughed at or ridicule. It is important that we offer all students the
freedom to make choices for themselves. Choices creation allows for emotional
well-being within our students. Students need the freedom to pursue interests
and their own learning desires. Allowing students to express themselves in a
safe environment creates emotional strength. Once any student has emotional
strength and confidence that student is well on his/her way to learning. It is
indeed sad that even after more than 170 years since the abolition of the Atlantic
slave trade our people are still being bullied into submission. We live in a
society where those whose opinions are different are oftentimes allowed to feel
tendency to subscribe “otherness” to those we view as different need to stop.
Article 19 of the Convention of the Right of the Child speaks to the right each
child has to be protected from hurt, mistreated, physically or mentally.
Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protected
them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents and or caregivers. Any
form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to
discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family
and social expectations for their behaviour. Non-violent methods of
disciplining are most appropriate to a child's level of development. In most
countries, laws already define what sorts of punishments are considered
excessive or abusive. It is up to each government to review these laws in light
of the Convention. The main purpose of a school, any school for that matter is
to impart knowledge to its clients. Schools are not established to administer
corporal punishment, and it’s ludicrous and
defenseless to try and justify any such action regardless of what was used to
carry out the punishment. Teaching and learning is what schools are there for.
If there are students who for whatever reasons will not conform to the rules of
the school then the parents and or guardians of such students should be called
in and the matter discussed. It is not the purview of the principal to flog
that child. Of course they may be instances where the parent of an unruly child
or an under-performing child may be asked to find another institution for
his/her child or to get that child some professional help. However, in a modern
society and a global community corporal punishment has no place even if parents
sign documents giving school administrators the permission to do so. Instead
school administrators need to find creative and other non violent ways to
punish students who display maladaptive behaviours and many of our students in
fact do display such
behaviours. Instead of physically beating a child let us use the
knowledge, skills and years of experience to adopt a more humane way of
treating the future adults of our society.
As a society we have grown up to think that schools are the safest place for
our children outside the home. We assume daily that once there is no physically
injury to our child that the child had a safe day at school and all is well.
This assumption however can be very deceptive and far from the truth. Parents
must employ some investigative techniques to access the social and emotional
aptitude of their children. How many of us as parents and guardians have
bothered to check the emotional well being of your child? Have you ever thought
about the emotional safety of your child? How many of us are familiar with
Jamaica’s Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA)? If you are not acquainted with
the CCPA take the time to do so. This Act provides the legislative framework
for the protection of all children from physical and emotional abuse.
Investing in the safety and emotional well being of our children is an
investment worth having. Our human resources are
our greatest assets.
Wayne Campbell-is an educator and social commentator with an interest in
development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.