Keep the classroom safe: Physical abuse in schools has long term negative impact
"Hitting a student is not a solution. If you instill fear and resentment into the mind of a child, he or she will not respect you. When the child has no respect for a teacher, he stops learning," said UAE teacher Annie George. (Al Bawaba/File)
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Hitting and publicly humiliating a child could have detrimental long-term effects on the student's well-being and school performance, according to education and child psychology experts in the UAE.
"A child who experiences physical abuse is likely to experience the world as an unsafe place which can cause them anxiety," said clinical psychologist Amy Bailey, Head of Psychology at KidFIRST Medical Centre in Dubai.
She added: "The level of this anxiety depends on the extent to which the abuse has occurred (whether it is one off or continuous). Children learn that this is acceptable behaviour and therefore may mirror these actions in their relationships with others."
The subject of corporal punishment became a hot subject of discussion after a video of a teacher beating a student in Ajman went viral last week. This is the third such incident to be reported in a less than a fortnight. The latest video - apparently filmed in class - shows a male teacher hitting a student several times. The child can be heard trying to stifle his screams in the eight-second long clip.
According to a statement from the UAE Ministry of Education, the governing body has denounced all forms of physical punishment. "All forms of physical punishment are rejected as a tool of discipline at schools," said Hussain Al Hammadi, UAE Minister of Education. The minister has confirmed that the teacher in question has been suspended for student assault. He stated that the Ministry of Education has formed a committee to investigate the incident to learn in detail the circumstances that led to the beating. This will also help them implement effective educational measures.
The Ministry of Education has also announced plans to launch a hotline for students to report anything that may threaten their physical or psychological wellbeing, or education.
Psychologist Dr. Raymond Hamden, Director of the Human Relations Institute and Clinics in Dubai, said such incidents - or even negative attitudes from teachers - might have long-term effects on a child's wellbeing and school performance.
"The consequences of corporal punishment on students are negative. It always has been, and research shows that. People report it from about every single culture. It turns children off from learning," he said. "There has to be a line on how to handle students, whether they be elementary, junior high or high school students, and it needs to incorporate parental participation."
He added: "But more important than the debate on corporal punishment is the attitude of the teacher to the student."
Khaleej Times spoke to a few teachers in this regard who said that like all human beings even teachers forget to be patient. But that does not justify or explain beating a child. "Hitting a student is not a solution. If you instill fear and resentment into the mind of a child, he or she will not respect you. When the child has no respect for a teacher, he stops learning," said Annie George, a teacher in Sharjah.
Rachel Pereira, another teacher based in Dubai, said: "Corporal punishment is not a solution. As teachers, we are here to educate and nurture the child.... We need to help the child grow. Not beat them. That will lead to no consequence."
Dr Hamden added: "The teacher's attitude to the student is paramount in the student's performance, because of teacher expectation. When a teacher expects negative, they'll actually provoke negative from the student. A student who may be actually brilliant in many ways may not be able to perform well enough, because of the teacher's expectations causing the student to consciously or unconsciously, more likely, to behave in a poor fashion."
Parents too stated that they are against corporal punishment. "This is the 21st century. If a teacher is resorting to corporal punishment to teach a child, then I think that civilisation has gone a few steps behind. Beating and educating a child is a thing of the past," said Biju Nair, an Indian national and resident of Dubai.
Father of a six-year-old daughter, Biju said: "I trust my child with a teacher for close to seven to eight hours in a day. If I realise that my daughter is getting beaten in the time I am not with her, it is something that will bring me a lot of grief. I will loose faith in the educational system. Children don't deserve that, neither do parents."
Students must not resort to social media: Minister
However, Hammadi also said that students should be aware of how to act during such incidents and not resort to shooting videos. "Moreover, students should learn the proper etiquette of using social media and not just take it as a platform for the dissemination of offensive videos or offend any party," he added.
The Minister of Education emphasised that the country can achieve an excellent educational system by establishing a relationship of mutual respect between teacher and student.
He said: "The purpose of imparting innovative learning concepts and moral values among the younger generation is an essential requirement. Therefore, the ministry supports modern educational methods and renounces corporal punishment and behaviours contrary to the UAE's traditions and customs which are the foundation for ensuring a healthy relationship between teacher and student."
Al Hammadi emphasised that the ministry's aspiration to maintain a balanced relationship between teachers and students is affected adversely by punishments such as beating and impacts the educational process.
The minister said that even though the teacher needs to take special care to ensure that the child is unhurt, the student must treat the teacher with respect. The teacher-student relationship should be one of mutual respect. "There is a need to treat a student's mistake wisely and rationally by a teacher and not by abusing physically or emotionally. At the same time, a student should obey his/her teacher and abide by the regulations," he added.
The minister also explained that the Ministry of Education has recently circulated a list of educational behaviour expected from public and private schools to achieve its objectives in maintaining the stability of the educational institution and ensure that it is free from any disturbances or problems.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr.
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