Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: MP Olivierre should stop politicking with child welfare and corporal punishment

Dear Editor: MP Olivierre should stop politicking with child welfare and corporal punishment

“School violence in Trinidad and Tobago did not start with Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s term of office as Education Minister. That is a false premise, and when you start with a false premise, your argument is dead in the water.”

In the following Letter to the Editor, novelist and social activist Merle Hodge urges MP Nicole Olivierre not to use corporal punishment as a political football:

Photo: La Brea MP Nicole Olivierre.
(Copyright ircp.gov.tt)

Very briefly, Ms Olivierre, in the 21st century, to beat or not to beat children is no longer a topic up for debate. Just as there is no debate, among sane and sensible people, as to whether men should beat women and vice-versa. These are acts of violence against the human person and a child is a person too.

There are matters on which the leadership of a country needs to be better informed than the least informed among the people whom it leads. You are an intelligent young person—I can’t speak for some of the desk-thumpers—so you owe it to yourself and to the country to update your understanding of important social issues.

School violence in Trinidad and Tobago did not start with Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s term of office as Education Minister. That is a false premise and, when you start with a false premise, your argument is dead in the water.

You want to lay school violence at her feet but that is some pretty shallow and simplistic reasoning for someone of your intelligence and level of education.

It was a courageous act on the part of Kamla Persad-Bissessar to take the step that she did, in the face of the widespread, unthinking support for corporal punishment to be found among our population. There was no political gain to be had there.

Photo: A school teacher administers corporal punishment in Uganda.

And it is commendable that all ministers of Education coming after her identified with, and continued, the policy of no beating: Hazel Manning (PNM), Esther LeGendre (PNM), Tim Gopeesingh (UNC) and Anthony Garcia (PNM).

Have you noticed? Three PNM Ministers of Education. How is this a “UNC” policy?

Let’s leave the children’s well-being out of the politicking, please.

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  1. These folk sound like religious fundamentalists..The greater the empirical evidence the louder they scream at the messanger/s….maybe some of them ‘want some good licks?”

  2. Exactly,Mr Noel,those are the root causes,as an example how many middle class children commit crime

    • Actually, I’d say quite a few Llewelyn. Lucky for them, fraud, money laundering, bribery, insider trader and other white collar crimes don’t seem to be prosecutable in Trinidad and Tobago. ??

    • Lasana Liburd,the discussion here is not on white collar crime,almost everyone here is talking about violent crime,as you are aware it began with the fight in schools

    • Llewellyn to be honest, middle class and upper class households aren’t immune to domestic violence and the like either eh.
      We won’t see videos of “high brow” people fighting at KFC because they don’t have those sort of frustrations. But I actually don’t believe that violence is a lower class thing.

    • What the lady was saying the lack of structure within the family,as Lloyd Best said the breakdown in community live,the frustration you refer is a result of structure,the ability to obtain basic needs,this is the reason it is imperative that the social inequities are addressed

    • I agree that is part Llewellyn. I don’t disagree with Merle at all. But remember we were our colony. Our society was built on violence and inequality. So it would run deeper than that too.
      I definitely agree that would help but I would always be wary of believing that violence is restricted to one class of people.

    • I will wait for part 2,these are the conversations this society should be having with the intelligentsia,I miss Best.We must be able to disagree

  3. So let me get this right, you guys are saying that the removal of corporal punishment is to blame for the school violence (not lack of positive role models, lack of parental involvement, single parent homes, children having children etc)?

  4. You can discipline without licks, the same effects you are referring to Matthew Jaggasar and Rossana Glasgow can be achieved with other forms of discipline.

    I believe that the lack of family structure has had wayyyyyyy more to do with indiscipline in schools than no corporal punishment.

    If we look at the most indisciplined children would we find any similarities such as (single parent homes, no postive male role model, child born to teenage parents etc).

    I think by focusing on corporal punishment, we are not trying to find the real root cause and therefore will not truly solve the issue.

  5. Merle need to wheel and come again

  6. The MP pointed out that when Corporal punishment was removed, no other form of discipline was instituted to take its place. That has been the problem ever since. Teachers have few tools available to them to discipline unruly students and some if their parents are just as bad or worse as they come in school and accost teachers who do try to discipline their unruly offspring. Merle need some hearing aids?

  7. Rossana Glasgow,DO you think that is removal of capital punishment is responsible for the increase in crime?The minister announced that in the last five years,there were 5,000 dropouts.What will happen to them?2,000 children made less than 30% in SEA,Mr Deosaran said 99%’of the prisoners in Remand went to government secondary schools.In addition children got 0 in maths and English.There are so many holes in those arguments,to the person who said they got licks and turned out good,what about the abused becoming abusers

  8. Some teachers overdid it? How much is enough? Are you saying not all slave owners were bad? That there were slave masters?” Slavery is/was an crime against humanity..The degree to which it was practised even if in a ‘kindly manner” does not mitigate that fact.

  9. And then there were those who got the licks and went home and decided I don’t want anymore and put in thier work and got the job done. DONT get me wrong some teachers did overdo it but in retrospect when we see the benefits that it had in the realm of being able to have a sense of controll over the pupils, don’t you think it was wrong to just throw it by the way side? A school teacher now is afraid to talk to child “to hard” because of the back lash. Gone are the days when we see teachers walking around with thier “whips” we would end up straight as a pin. Every one has different views but I for one would fully support the reintroduction of “licks”. For those who like stats just look at the numbers and you would see.. or is it that every topic in this country has to be a political battle.. we need to have serious change, if not I really am sorry for us in the next 10 years

  10. I reiterate , there is a price for development. we followed first world policies and listened to psychiatrist telling us how licks damaged children. So who shooting who today? Parents who went to school up to standard 6 (not bright or scholars shared licks, and the murder rate was non-existent. Everybody became educated and have Masters and Phd’s and can provide philosophical explanations for no licks in schools and the damage to children. This along with poor parenting (no licks, instead speak to the children or ignore them). Who responsible for the alarming crime rate and murders in T&T?. Another factor is movement away from the good book the BIBLe which states the results of sparing the rod and spoiling the child, As a nation we are reaping what we sow, because “we bright.’ Most important to this discourse is that there is a difference between licks and abuse. The policy makers threw away the baby with the bath water and today trying to keep their head above water with the increasing and wide-spread school violence

  11. Law ‘enforcement’ has shot dead 38 persons so far in T&T for 2017 according to official figures..Given this is the ultimate form of ‘corporal punishment’ should we not be able to walk our streets safely at all hours? Should awe never again have a ‘crime problem?” Should we in 2017 be the most well behaved and regulated culture on the planet?

  12. Yes! At age 11 I was beaten so hard in my hands with a ruller, by a teacher for not being able to understand an arithmetic problem, it hurt so badly, I was put off Maths for life. Every time after that when I had to go to her class, with fear, all I could feel was the pain of the licks, and could’ve never concentrate on what she was saying.
    I never caught up – even in secondary school!! Corporal punishment is pure Savegery

  13. Rights conventions duties all that political and philosophical nonsense honestly and with due respect to me makes no sense when it comes to this. It’s a simple question did you get licks in school yes or no? I did and God knows I couldn’t stand in the hall ways and disrespect teachers because my behind would be on flames and before I got home my mother would be waiting…. we loose that ability to control the student from the first encounter which now we see what it has grown into.. so my brother you read conventions and rights I would stick to old school… DONT SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD

  14. Mr Matthew Jaggasar,have you read the convention on the rights of a child

  15. I want y’all to answer this question for me please….. did you get licks in school? If yes are you dead, mamed or in anyway damaged as a result?

  16. I think the point was…if u got rid of licks….what systems were put in place to manage and deal effectively with school discipline….especially as students these days tend to be more aggressive and violent than previously…installing a dean of discipline without any teeth nor saying that teachers are responsible for students behaviour during school hours are the solutions…sorry to say

    • You’re being very generous. I think the point was just to point fingers at the opposition in the absence of a proper response with regards to dealing with school violence.

    • Lol…politicians are politicians…i agree with Panday’s assertion they hv a morality of their own…but the point should not be lost that successive govts have not seen it fit to develop novel systems to maintain discipline in schools…sorry to say…that teachers are trained to deliver a curriculum using classroom management strategies…but they are not trained to deal with violent or dysfunctional students..

    • lol. Agreed on just about all points.

    • U pointed out that is seems that children these days are more aggressive and violent. If the argument for stopping corporal punishment was that it leads to mental issues, increased tendencies to violence and aggression among other things, then it would follow that this generation should be more docile not more aggressive..

    • Lol…it was just my observation from time as a secondary school teacher…but i am not a social psychologist to suggest clear reasons for it…but i have observed though…is that children tend to be positive focused and functional when parents are involved and interested in their children’s wellbeing and progress

    • Avenash maybe it is society that is more violent and not just students.

    • Well…the environment shaped us all…one way or the other…that i agree with

    • But everyone have a choice…at every junction…u hv a choice to turn left or turn right…

    • What is a ‘system of discipline”? It sounds like an army barracks. Lol The issue is systemic, children restless as normal, the rote learning method frustrates, or some children are abuse victims, school is the outlet for releasing stress tied up with an outdated philosophy and pedagogy you have a total mess. Why do school systems with alternative philosophies and techniques that engage the multiple capacities of young not experience as much violence? Putting it down to “discipline” as though we back in colonial times seems to be missing the point.

  17. I saw her contribution and noticed she looked decidedly uncomfortable. Hope she wasn’t bullied into saying anything

  18. I have maintained that flogging genesis was slavery,beaten to conform.Ms Hodge was kind to Ms Ollivierre,

  19. I am not in the education system so I can’t say that it was but as the child of a retired teacher a lot of our teachers don’t have the committment that teachers of old had

    Also when people refer to the government not putting anything else in place what did they expect the government to put in place that individual school administrations could not have!

    • Teachers of old had parents who supported them so discipline came from home and school. Is that the case now? When a child got in trouble at school he/she dared not go home an complain. Parents now take stories at face value because ‘my child doesn’t lie’. 95% of teachers do care about the kids. Most are frustrated with the lack of support from the ministry as well as the general public. Licks isn’t the answer for discipline. Suspension or expulsion isn’t either. Support is. Support from ALL stakeholders! Parents, teachers, ministry, neighbors, friends and anyone who considers themselves patriots must do their part. Just my two cents….

    • Peter Joseph, I agree with you that support is key……………that’s why the argument that’s the government’s removal of corporal punishment is to blame for indiscipline in schools is ridiculous!

  20. If I remember the MP’s contribution was that corporal punishment was removed without any alternative being offered. If this is correct why the hating on the MP?

  21. So correct Darren Taylor,we have no replacement.What we have had since that is total chaos and what borders on anarchy, in some of our schools.Principals and teachers cannot discipline some children.Children are actually telling teachers”yuh cyar do me nutten,watch mih act de fool up in here”.I am no behavioural scientist but as a citizen of this country,i have witnessed the rapid deterioration of our youth,since corporal punishment has been abolished in our schools.

  22. Are we saying that the removal of corporal punishment removed any other form of discipline from schools?………Didn’t schools have other methods like detention, penance, suspension, explaining to your classmates why your actions were wrong?

    Come now people, there are many other options that were available that were not utilised!

  23. The disconnect is happening between home and school. Teachers cannot give licks to children who are being trained to only respond to licks… The parents need training!

  24. it may not have started then, but what role has politicians (successive Education Ministers) played is address to situation. Tell me the removal of corporal punishment did not remove the power of discipline from teachers and placed in the hands of students. I agree it should not be used as political football, the damage has already done. Most developing countries adopt measures created by the UN and the US . T&T chose not to follow European policies but failing US who are #13 in Education across the globe. Further to that no government has ever addressed the social issues but instead have put plasters on sore. The Education system continues to fail us as a country and we as citizens sit back and take what politicians handed out.

  25. Trinis don’t ever hear the whole sentence she said it was Jamal fault because she took away corporal punishment and never put in place an alternative

  26. Oliverre agrument was that she ended coporal punishment without putting an alternative method of discpline a point everyone missed.

  27. She stopped corporal punishment in schools. So we are reaping the rewards of tar idiotic move.

  28. Why are we not suggesting that we teach our children to think and reason, to care, to respect each other instead of wanting to shut them down with physical violence.

  29. A little known fact is that CP was removed because there was too much violence in the schools. It was based on a premise that we cannot continue to use violence to prevent violence. Truth be told, there is little difference in discipline issues. Our grandparents were smoking weed behind the schoolhouse. But it didn’t have camera phones and Facebook back then to put them in the news…

  30. Agreed! Go back, way back… Read once again the newspaper headlines of yesteryear … 1992 to be exact. ‘Bullets before Books’, ‘Student brands another with an iron and tells him to stay cool’, ‘Students sell cocaine in school’. Noticeably these headlines are 8 years prior to the supposed removal of corporal punishment in schools. This ‘removal’ of itself is a complete myth! Today’s youth are still able to ‘benefit’ from the same beatings, insults and degradation we were exposed to as children.

  31. Could never understand why this is an issue..The verdict has been/is IN…Licks serves no purpose other than to denigrate and humiliate..Any teacher raising that issue should be summarily dismissed on grounds of stupidity..Since we are there , messrs pro-licks”,how about lobotomy/’electroshocks for the mentally ill, leeching in place of surgery and amputation for theft..That should solve most of our social problems.

  32. Even though corporal punishment might be a thing of the pass what should have replace it was a clear and well defined disciplinary policy

  33. While I readily and wholeheartedly agree with Ms Hodge’s argument, I question her observation that Ms Olivierre in an “intelligent” young woman. For too long we have been accepting credentials as intelligence, which explain why we are where we are as a nation today. This nation has more than its fair share of PhDs in Parliament, yet collectively cannot solve some simple solutions with which this county faces. It’s sad that Ms Olivieirre, like Ms Cudjoe or Ms Panday bring nothing new to the parliament, aside from their youth. They take their lead from the older heads who belong to another era; an era we would like to be long forgotten, which unfortunately haunts us every other day.

    • Took the words right out of my mouth…we have a lot of learned people..not necessarily intelligent people in Parliament( and numerous positions of power in this country)..it is why we are in the predicament we are in right now..with 2 major parties of this country that will take us absolutely nowhere.

  34. Merle Hodge what rock you have suddenly emerged from to use disguised language to personally attack a fellow female and a MP. She did nothing to you as far as I’m aware.

    She simply said said what the vast majority of the population has been saying. Why are you so silent on the statement made by the Head of TTUTA that teachers have no responsibility for their young charges during the lunch and break periods.

    How dare you compare corporal punishment to domestic violence? The criminal acts committed by these students did in fact intensify under Kamla, yes we all know she is your good friend, but she did nothing to stem the tide of the school violence that blossomed under her watch

    You want to disagree either the MP, fine that’s your right but not in the offensive and sarcastic manner. Shame on you!

    • Earl Best

      En boca cerrada, the Spanish say, no entran moscas.

      In case you don’t speak any Spanish, Ben nel, here, in English, is my advice to you: one is always better off keeping his/her mouth shut and letting people think (s)he is foolish than opening it and let them have their confirmation.


    • Ben Nel, you evidently have no idea that Dr Merle Hodges and a group called Working Women worked tirelessly to get eliminate corporal punishment in schools. I recall clearly as was a supporter of them then, and now. It is quite acceptable to be silent on some issues, especially those of which you are ill informed. I am not as diplomatic as Mr Best.

  35. This is 2017! Corporal Punishment?!?.
    Cud not believe what I heard!
    Especially after watching youngsters “corporal punishing” each other and themselves. (And from the mouth of a young person!)

    • Something mentally retarded with us as a people.
      Peruse the fleet of young “so-called” public leaders. None of them have any new ideas, innovations, solutions, theories or such. And all of them in the same colonial mode as their grandparents. There is a reason for our stasis

  36. Well, I totally disagree with you. Olivierre is quite correct.

  37. Thank you Ms. Hodge for explaining to this young lady that our children are not political pawns for her or anyone else to use for their political ends.

  38. NEVER managed to be able to perform the mental acrobatics required to process the reasoning that licks are somehow a solution!

  39. No but there is no proper reprimand other than a 7 day suspension.

  40. All those things and more was going on long long time, just they are being recorded and broadcasted for all to see