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School CP - November 2001
BBC News Online, London, 9 November 2001
Liberia's president brandishes the rod
Liberia's President Charles Taylor has administered publicly 10 lashes to one of his daughters after the school suspended her for indiscipline.
The 13-year-old girl called Edena was made to lie flat on a table, face down before her classmates, to receive the strokes.
Many African countries allow corporal punishment, though in Liberia the practice has become unfashionable since the end of the brutal seven-year civil war.
The president said that he hoped his action would serve as an encouragement to parents, teachers, and guardians to instill discipline in students who appear to be uncontrollable.
"As president, I have the responsibility not only for my children but all children in the country to ensure that the responsibility of nationhood will be passed on to reliable custodians."
He blamed the increasing wave of indiscipline in various schools on the lack of suitable punishment.
The JJ Roberts School principal, Ruth Doe, said she felt she had little alternative but to allow the beating.
"In spite of efforts to dissuade the president from flogging his daughter in public, he went ahead but maintained it would serve as a deterrent to other children," she explained.
Mrs Doe said, they had suspended the president's daughter along with a teenage boy for "displaying improper behaviour" on campus.
The JJ Roberts foundation School is one of the most respected institutions in the country, with high academic standards and strict discipline.
President Taylor also expressed thanks to the school's administration for their patiance in dealing with students including his daughter. He later donated a 25 seater bus to the school.
Corporal punishment used to be a tradition in Liberian schools but the emergence of child rights advocacy groups as a result of the country's civil war , has made the practice unfashionable.
Indiscipline has become a major problem in Liberian schools.
Many students in Liberia are ex-combatants who have been exposed to harmful drugs during the war.
The Perspective, Smyrna, Georgia, USA, 14 November 2001
First Daughter Becomes Victim of Public Relations Ploy
Last week, President Taylor put his daughter on the front pages of the international press in an effort to portray himself as a former teacher, father and president who is a disciplinarian - by flogging the 13-year old girl, Edena, in front of her eighth grade classmates at the J. J. Roberts United Methodist school in Sinkor. Taylor made her to lie flat on a table and administered ten lashes to her "backside".
State hired pens (reporters) were on hand to document every move the president made. They immediately syndicated the photos of the president "abusing" his daughter to media houses in Monrovia in a public relations ploy to project Mr. Taylor as a president who believes in discipline.
After the incident, President Taylor said, "As president, I have the responsibility not only for my children but all children in the country to ensure that the responsibility of nationhood will be passed on to reliable custodians." He then used the occasion to donate a 25-seater bus to the school.
The infraction for which Edena Taylor and a boy were suspended had to do with "displaying improper behaviour". It is alleged that she "was engaged in an 'indecent act' with a boy on the school's campus. "
Many observers note that the school was not the place for Mr. Taylor to flog his daughter - "Charity begins at home", and not in the classroom. Mr. Taylor's action violated the Ministry of Education guidelines. The usual practice is when a child goes contrary to a school's policy, that child is sent home until the parent returns to the school with the child to know first-hand why such action was taken. The parent then takes the child home and administer any necessary disciplinary action.
Mr. Taylor's action has prompted debate in and out of the country. Speaking of the incident, an exiled Liberian school teacher said, "it is preposterous for Taylor who drugged children to make them fight for him, who had the ruthless "Small Boys Unit" terrorized helpless Liberians during the war, today has the nerve to pretend that he is a role model."
But this public relations ploy appears to have backfired. According to The News newspaper, Government chief photographer was "sweating profusely, walking from one newspaper office to the other, retrieving photos of the president and his daughter." Photographer James Garrenson has been instructed by the government to recover the photos. Even the government propaganda machine that carried the picture on its Internet has also taken it down.
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© Colin Farrell 2001
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