Govt. rethinks corporal punishment

The Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.), has rescinded its earlier call for corporal punishment in schools. 

This was confirmed by the Minister of M.E.S.C, Loau Keneti Sio, during an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“The notion behind reviving corporal punishment at the time was to address interschool fights,” he said. 

“However after receiving the legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office and a warning by the Ministry of Police that assault is assault, we have had to rethink our strategy." 

“And with the Police, they see assault as an assault and that is the law.”

According to the Minister, the Attorney General’s Officer said “corporal punishment is somewhat too strong of a term; rather M.E.S.C. should consider reasonable punishment(s)”. 

“See even that is a broad term, and we are working on specification of the elements of reasonable punishment." 

“But we have seen the decrease in fights since the introduction of new sports such as boxing." 

“My personal view is that these students from different schools have been hanging out even after the fights." 

“This specific sport’s core training is all about being disciplined and so as Minister, I’m glad the aspect of having more sporting events is somewhat helpful,” said Loau.

He said they have not opted to go through with corporal punishment. 

He said during the general assembly for teachers prior to the starting of the 2018 school year, the Police issued a stern warning to teachers that assault is illegal and they will be prosecuted. 

“The last thing I want is to go through with the corporal punishment and have our teachers prosecuted by the Police and so again we have rescinded that movement,” said Loau. 

As reported earlier, prior to the start of the new school year, Police Senior Sergeant, Samia Iosua Samia, addressed principals and teachers during the Teachers Conference, informing them that assaulting a student is a crime and they will be prosecuted. 

“This practice is prohibited under the Crimes Act,” he said.

“Although this was the general practice in the past where teachers hit students, this is now disallowed under the law."

“Under the Crimes Act assault it is defined as touching, raping, hitting, collaring, slapping, pushing, throwing an object and kicking.” 

Teachers, he said, need to find other methods of disciplining students. He pointed out that teachers should have special skills such as “patience and love” for the students. 

He also called on the teachers to utilise the principles of Christianity to empower them to have self-control to deal with any given situation. 

“Teachers should be able to handle any situation that arises and not lean on disciplinary measures always when encountering an issue that calls for the need to discipline a student,” he said.

“Being a teacher means that you are well equipped mentally to deal with any issue and it is a gift that only teachers possess.” 

Samia said teachers who resort only to violence show they lack patience and preparations.

“Some teachers have issues at home and they tend to bring them to school,” he said. “I urge you to get a hold of yourself. You as a teacher must check yourself before entering the classroom.”

But the message from the Police did not just target teachers.

Senior Sergeant Samia also called on principals and teachers to report students who are not attending schools.

“Under the law, the Police can file criminal charges against a parent who do not put their children to school,” he said. 

He added that everyone – teachers and parents – should work together to improve education in Samoa.

Corporal punishment is a sensitive topic.

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