UNICEF urges stronger enforcement of corporal punishment ban in schools
BANGKOK, 31 August 2010 – The caning of some 40 students by a teacher at a boarding school in Nakhon Ratchasima Province should serve as an urgent call for both improved awareness and enforcement of the ban on corporal punishment in schools, an official of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Thailand said today.
“No child should ever be subjected to physical punishment at school,” said Andrew Morris, the Deputy Representative for UNICEF Thailand. “Ministry of Education regulations strictly prohibit corporal punishment, and any teacher or other school worker who uses corporal punishment on students should be dismissed and subject to other professional and legal sanctions.”
A mobile phone video of the canings, carried out by an art teacher at St. Mary’s College school in the northeastern province, was aired on television Monday. The video showed the teacher viciously lashing several students with a cane wrapped with electrical wire, which left welts and bruises on the students that were documented in still photos also aired and published by the media.
The teacher, who was reportedly punishing the students for not cleaning up their living quarters at the Catholic boarding school, was fired by the school.
Morris said that despite Ministry of Education and National Committee on Child Protection regulations prohibiting any inhumane or violent punishment of students, corporal punishment “is still used in far too many schools around the country. Some teachers apparently are still not aware of the ban on corporal punishment, and some teachers who are aware of it are obviously ignoring it.”
Morris said that much more needs to be done to promote teacher awareness of prohibitions on corporal punishment in schools, ensure they are widely enforced and to provide teachers opportunities for orientation and training on alternative ways of disciplining students.
Amalee McCoy, a Child Protection Specialist with the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, said substantial research has shown that children who experience abuse, neglect and/or violence in school have significantly lower levels of academic achievement.
McCoy said Thailand, like many other countries in the region, still lacks a national policy on the protection of children in the education system. The policy could include procedures to be followed by school staff for handling suspected cases of student abuse, as well as a code of conduct for appropriate behaviour towards students, she said.
“Under such a policy corporal punishment would be prohibited, but the policy would also provide guidance and capacity building opportunities for teachers on appropriate methods for managing and disciplining students in a non-abusive and respectful manner,” McCoy said.