“I can’t believe it passed”
Social movement organiser and youth educator, Maluseu Doris Tulifau, is astounded that corporal punishment in schools has become legal once more.
As an activist, civil society organiser and the founder of Brown Girl Woke, Maluseu participated in several consultations on the Education Amendment Act 2019, recently passed into law.
The amendment, which among other things allows teachers to use reasonable force on children to: stop them from harming themselves or others, prevent them from committing a criminal offence, or from engaging in “threatening, offensive or disruptive behaviour.”
“They had all these workshops last year about zero tolerance, I can’t believe it passed,” said Maluseu.
“And the Ombudsman was so against the Bill passing.”
Brown Girl Woke (BGW) is an organisation which runs dance activities after school, to create spaces for children safe from harm or judgement. She said in her year building up the program, she has seen teachers behave in ways that shows that “reasonable force” is not always reasonable.
She described how once during a test, a boy was hit for dropping his pencil on the ground.
“I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve been in the classroom when boom, just because a pencil dropped,” Maluseu said, miming the teacher hitting the child.
“With the crime rate, and rates of sexual abuse, how are we meant to allow an educator, someone that kids should always look up to, be able to do that?,” she said.
Maluseu said allowing violence from the hands of the people students are meant to trust will further perpetuate violence in the home, as shown in the National Inquiry into Family Violence released by the Office of the Ombudsman last year.
“Every single person, every ministry that was part of the inquiry where the Ombudsman was doing interviews, everyone was against the bill being passed, how did it get passed?
“One of the speakers said if we still have domestic violence everywhere, why should we have abuse in education? Which is true,” she said.
Her activities with Brown Girl Woke maintain an anti-violence approach in the afterschool activities she runs. There is proof that discipline does not have to be physical, Maluseu said.
“When they come to our program and it’s a whole different world, it’s outside of school and it’s fun, it shows you don’t have to discipline by hitting them.
“The two kids that were always suspended at the school that was part of our program, they were the leaders of our program, and they were doing better at school.
“It goes to show you these kids need more attention, they need more time.
Exhausted, under paid teachers can’t give every single student the attention they need, Maluseu said.
“It does show you we need extra-curricular activities at the schools, to show there are people that care,” she said.
“Maybe that need outside people to show they do care, so when kids go back to school they are excited that there is something that is going to happen after.