Thursday, 13 March 2014

Physical and Emotional Safety and Its Impact on Education

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 lesser than.
Our 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.