Defer reasonable force law, says Ombudsman

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma.

Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

The Office of the Ombudsman has appealed to the Parliament to defer the amendment on the use of reasonable force by teachers in schools.

That is until the Parliament and the Government have had the full opportunity to consider the Inquiry Report and its recommendations, which will be launched early next month.

The Office of the Ombudsman made the call last week in a submission to the Parliamentary Social Committee, in its capacity as the country’s national human rights institution. The submission is based on the amendment to the Education Bill 2009, specifically section 23 which proposes that teachers in schools use reasonable force to discipline children. 

The appeal to the Parliament was made in a statement which was posted on the Facebook page of the Office of the Ombudsman. 

Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma stressed to the Members of Parliament that the ultimate responsibility to protect the children fell on the State. 

“However, it is also everyone’s responsibility and obligation to ensure that our children are protected from any form of violence.

“There has been an increasing number of teachers being brought before the courts because of assault,” he said.

The key issue is whether there has been any enforcement of the law that banned corporal punishment in Samoa, said Maiava. And not all teachers use violence when disciplining children.

“There are only a few who children fear and these are the ones who should be targeted, and trained to better teach and educate children in an environment free from violence. 

“It is a great shame that we are taking this approach of using reasonable force in schools when the issue is not really a problem now. 

“The approach does not also take into account those students who are not in school but instigate the violence,” he added.

Maiava said it is not clear how the amendment will address violence in schools and teachers “who enjoy” disciplining children will get more power to do that.

“The link is unclear of how the amendment will resolve the issue of violence in schools – the only thing the new proposed change will do is to empower those teachers who enjoy disciplining children. 

“The impact of violence on children will be grave and this amendment will not help at all – both violence and reasonable force cannot be treated in isolation,” he added.

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