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A look at corporal punishment in schools in Haiti

  • May 7, 2024
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In Haiti, practices of corporal punishment against children, particularly in schools, are commonplace. This subject has often been debated in the country and opinions differ depending on what some believe to be good and others believe to be bad. Beyond personal considerations and assessments on the issue, there is the word of law which must prevail, even if, on the question of corporal punishment specifically, not all seem be aware of the legislation on the latter.

Indeed, in recent days, a video has been circulating on social networks showing a school principal using corporal punishment against a student in a public establishment in the northwest of the country. This act prompted the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) to sanction the director of the Béthel Béthesda national school in the North-East, for serious violence against a child at the school. The ministry’s measure was announced through a press release.

But what does Haitian law say about corporal punishment, particularly in schools?

Indeed, in 2001, the official newspaper Le Moniteur published the law of Monday October 1, 2001, number 80, aimed at protecting children, prohibiting corporal punishment, inhuman treatment and corporal punishment which children often do.

In article 1, the 2001 law indicates that “Inhuman treatment of any nature whatsoever, including corporal punishment against children, is prohibited”, specifying in article 2 that “Inhuman treatment means any act likely to cause bodily or emotional shock, such as hitting or shoving a child, or inflicting punishment likely to harm their personality, by or without the intermediary of an object or weapon or the use of ‘abusive physical force’.

Also, this law provides for the application of the penal code against all violators of this law. In the case of a person, the latter will be revoked, and in the case of an institution it will be closed. Furthermore, a requirement is made for educational institutions and others to put in place a code of conduct with non-violent sanctions for child offenders.

However, in Haiti, this law is never really applied. In 2021, a case similar to that cited at the beginning of this article was recorded and the Ministry of Education had to invite all stakeholders and partners to get involved and engage in this long-term fight against all forms of violence in order to eliminate these intolerable and unacceptable practices against children.

To raise awareness among those concerned, the MENFP called on parents to prioritize a firm but caring and positive discipline approach towards the child allowing their progress without violence. To support its appeal, the state institution had highlighted studies on the negative impacts of physical violence on children as a form of sanction, for the harmonious development and well-being of the latter.

However, it should be noted that in Haiti, corporal punishment is commonplace, both in families and in schools. It is therefore difficult to enforce the laws and conventions dealing with corporal punishment of children.

“It’s difficult to make a student listen to reason, especially these days, without going through the whip,” a private school director told us anonymously. For the latter, it would be preferable to use a hybrid and measured method so as not, on the one hand, to use corporal punishment excessively, and on the other, not to give free rein to disobedient, lazy students. and disrespectful.

For a parent who spoke to Loop, it would be difficult to raise a child in the Haitian context without resorting to corporal punishment. “Timoun yo mande baton, paske yo pa tande lè w pale avèk yo,” the parent told us, arguing that if this practice gave results for his generation, it will necessarily give results for those to come.

Obviously unaware of the existence of a law prohibiting corporal punishment in Haiti, the woman was surprised when she was told about it, maintaining that it was an error on the part of the State which, according to her, , wants to let children be raised “any way”.

Another parent interviewed by our editorial team believes that corporal punishment is not that effective. For her, other types of punishments should be prioritized because, she says, “they serve, among other things, to prevent children from having access to things they like, when they act badly at school or at home. House “.

What does the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) say about it?

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child published in 1989, in its article 19, supports all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child against any form of violence, physical or physical harm or brutality. mental illness, abandonment or neglect, mistreatment or exploitation, including sexual violence, while in the custody of his or her parents, his or her legal representative(s) or of any other person to whom it is entrusted.

Also, in its article 3, the CRC calls for ensuring that children have the protection and care necessary for their well-being. It further urges, in its article 37, to take all measures to ensure that no child is subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Finally, the abolition of corporal punishment in Haiti, particularly in schools, by law, struggles to be effective despite warnings from the Ministry of National Education, and examples traced to some violators of this law.

Haitian parents, still convinced of the benefits of using corporal punishment, still resort to it. As for educational institutions, some have still not started the process of implementing a violence-free method, as required by the 2001 law.

Furthermore, it is the Ministry of Social Affairs which has the authority to intervene in the event of a violation of this law, while parents, students and school directors must contact the Ministry of National Education in the event of a violation. misunderstanding of the said law.

author avatar
Allwitch Joly