New task force to replace corporal punishment in schools Print E-mail
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Thursday, 11 March 2010 00:00

Task Force MembersThe Education and Training Bill was passed in the House of Representatives on February 19.  Prior to its passage, Education Minister Hon. Patrick Faber committed to delay implementation of the ban on corporal punishment for six months.  Furthermore, he also invited the Belize National Teacher’s Union and other partners in education to join a task force on identifying alternative

school discipline approaches.  Well, it was so said, so done, because on Thursday March 4, Hon. Faber inaugurated the 19 member task force.  It includes representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Teacher’s Union, Principals, Parents, the General Managers of Primary Schools, and the NGO community.  The task force will be co-chaired by a representative from the Ministry of Education and a representative from the Belize National Teacher’s Union. 

The task force has been tasked to identify, recommend, and devise a plan for the introduction of alternative student discipline approaches.  Its terms of reference states that the scope will include recommendations on best policies, practices, approaches, and strategies for alternative forms of student disciplines that are aligned with the quality schools framework and initiative. 

At Thursday’s inaugural meeting, Hon. Faber stressed that in carrying out its work, the task force can identify activities and initiatives which can be implemented immediately.  The task force has been asked to devise a work plan for itself in order to complete the scope of work within a timeframe of no more than six months.  Importantly, Faber says the six month timeline isn’t etched in stone and expressed a willingness to be flexible, noting that, “I am asking task force members to try their best to make sure that we fit within that six months. But if there is the need to and they indicate to us clearly where that need is present then that can be done.” 

Following the submission of a report, the ban on corporal punishment will be enforced via a statutory instrument.  Hon. Faber anticipates it will take only six months which will enable implementation of the new rules at the start of the new school year in January. 

Minister Faber noted that the intention isn’t necessarily to find an alternative to corporal punishment since in his view the real alternative, “is training.  It is to get our teachers to be at that point where they understand what can be done.”  In working towards that goal, the Ministry of Education has received funding from the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) to create and air 20 weekly television programs on the alternative discipline approaches. 

Belize National Teacher’s Union President Jaime Panti gave his earnest support and commitment to the work of the task force, admitting and almost conceding that, “the position of the union is for us to do away with corporal punishment, but the structures and mechanisms must be in place to give support.” 

The 19 members of the task force are Dativa Martinez, Arlette Sheppard, and Carolyn Codd from the Ministry of Education; Dr. Olda Hoare, Carmela Vega, and Meredith August as parent representatives; Roquelino Mendez, Delcia Chan, and Cruzita Castillo from the Principal’s Association; Endevora Jorgenson and Darrell Roches from the BNTU; Rev. Leslie Gillett, Dr. Wilma Wright, and Elizabeth Zabaneh from the Association of General Managers of Primary Schools; Pearl Stuart from the National Committee for Families and Children; Denbigh Yorke from NOPCAN; Anita Zetina from UNICEF, Mel Auil from the Kolbe Foundation, and Maxine McKay from the University of North Florida.