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School CP - February 1980

Evening Chronicle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, 29 February 1980

Spanking around the world

IN Belgium, spanking can draw a jail sentence. In Kenya and South Africa, it has to be done in front of a witness and recorded in a book. In Thailand, it has to be done with a stick no thicker than two centimetres.

It appears that to spank or not to spank is a universal issue, with a divergence of views worldwide.

The Los Angeles school district, concerned with a breakdown in classroom discipline, recently brought back corporal punishment after a four-year absence.

In the Philippines, where corporal punishment is forbidden by law, Government education official Magno Catabijan expressed a widely-held opinion: "I have sons, and I sometimes have to give them a punch. But my point is: I'll be the one, not somebody else."

In Sweden, even that is not allowed. Last March, the Swedish Parliament vetoed degrading treatment of children, even by parents in the home.

So far, no cases of violation have come to court.

Britain is one of the few countries that officially sanctions corporal punishment in school, but a growing number of teachers are trying to outlaw it as a "sordid anachronism".

Most of Europe, East and West, forbids physical punishment in schools, but face-slapping or a whack with a cane is not unusual in Greece.

And in Turkey there is a familiar saying: "Where the teacher hits, a rose blossoms".

In the Soviet Union, children are regarded as a precious resource. An official ban on striking a school child, plus parental pampering, has fuelled complaints about unruly, unappreciative youth.

In China, teachers who lose their tempers with a hand are liable for punishment. So past instances of students striking or humiliating their teachers during the Cultural Revolution have apparently gone unpaid.

Singapore allows senior teachers or principals to cane boys over 10 years old for major school infractions, such as fighting. Girls are spared.

The Japanese banned corporal punishment after the Second World War, but the law is often overlooked in favour of what one education official said is "a question of degree of physical punishment".

In the Arab world, corporal punishment largely vanished in the 1950s. In Lebanon, however, the pertinent question is whether the teachers or the students are getting the short end of the punishment stick.

Since the civil war, breakdown in law and order, gun-toting students have occasionally bullied their instructors for giving out poor grades or firing a popular teacher.

In Latin America, the practice is officially taboo in most countries but occasionally overlooked.

The leather strap is still the main enforcer in some rural areas, such as Peru's Indian villages.

Until corporal punishment was banned in Uruguay decades ago, a favourite punishment of teachers was to make unruly students kneel on hard corn kernels.

In former British colonies, such as Kenya, corporal punishment is condoned but strictly regulated. It can only be administered by the principal or headmaster in the presence of witnesses and can only be dealt out for exceptional violations such as lying, bullying or drunkenness.

One over-zealous Nairobi teacher caned a child who later died. He was convicted of murder and hanged.

The subject is probably most controversial in Britain, where caning by teachers and senior boys has long been an institution.

Sensitivities of some parents are such that two cases of corporal punishment in British schools are pending before the European Commission of Human Rights.

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