If for some experts in education and in psychology, to speak about physical punishments in 2020 in the schools seems absurd, the reality in Haiti goes beyond the imaginary. Allow me to introduce Miss Sabine. She is a 27-year-old single mother who takes care of her eight-year-old daughter on her own, through her small sales of extensions or false hair. She took the social media podium to speak out against a teacher's abuse of her daughter for not bringing a school-required math book. She sought to understand and explain the motive for such punishment. My daughter is not responsible if I cannot afford to buy this book yet, she exclaims, in a tone that does not hide her disappointment and embarrassment. Maybe it's me who deserves the punishment, she wonders. What door should I knock on for a loan, in order to avoid this shame, once again, to my little princess? Suddenly, tears sprinkle on her overwhelmed face.
At this point, any sympathy for Sabine is completely justified. However, one should ask how to explain and manage to convince parents that no school should, under any circumstances, abuse children in its care and protection. What are the pedagogical models that encourage these teachers, supervisors or disciplinary executioners, to use force against these vulnerable children?
Good education does not come without discipline, and discipline is impossible without punishment, proudly tell and naively some Haitian parents. Even some parents in our diaspora who have lived for a long time in countries, where all forms of physical and violent punishment against children are banned, threaten their children to take them to Haiti for a good beating. Indeed, if we put aside the international schools that follow models of American or French pedagogies, in almost all Haitian schools, especially at the primary level, violent and physical punishments against minors are practiced. It is not a question of private or public schools. Neither is it far from a question of schools with secular or religious vocations. In our cities and in rural areas, physical abuse against young children is like a contagious epidemic that deserves to be eradicated in all our schools.
A widespread practice
The story of Madame Aline who does not was only nine years old when a professor punished her with forty belt lashes, on the pretext that she had violated the sacred silence, imposed by the professor, is not only anecdotal. After a few knocks, the whole room was already, all the frightened children screaming and crying in tears, in solidarity with this terrible torture of their comrade. The carefree hadn't spared him even a blow. Sadly, once she arrived home, her parents, religious leaders, good Christians, defenders of the poor, had tacitly agreed to this violence against their own daughter. If the professor punished you, it was probably because he had a good reason for doing so. More than 25 years later, Madame Aline's emotions are still alive when she tells her story.
Monsieur Isaac still remembers this traumatic incident with a teacher in preparatory class (1). He was telling her that now was not the time to go to the bathroom and that at all costs, he had to wait for the break, which we call recess in our house. Since he couldn't hold it any longer, he raised his little hand again to ask permission. Annoyed, the teacher motioned for him to come forward, and in front of the whole classroom, he severely punished him with a piece of rubber. The poor boy pissed on himself the first time. The mocking laughter of his comrades still haunts his mind. The humiliation was brutal. Unfortunately, some parents, instead of expressing their indignation, rely on a false pride that forces them to punish (with whips or belts) their children, sometimes under the gazing eyes of malicious teachers and supervisors.  An Extension of Domestic Violence
The vast majority of Haitians confess that they were punished during their childhood, not only at school but also at the hands of their own parents. In a recent survey that I conducted with several Haitian teachers and education experts, they unanimously consider physical violence in schools to be an extension of domestic violence. To clear themselves of their misdeeds, some claim that they practice these corrections with the consent of the parents of the students who, they say, need help to redress these children whom they qualify as belligerent.
For some historians , this practice would be a sequel to the slavery system where humiliation, whipping, torture, beating, the most reprehensible crimes were committed against our ancestors, under the pretext of civilizing them. Discipline went through violence, according to the settlers of the time. For other experts, the causes are both psychological and cultural. In fact, Haitian psychologists and anthropologists cannot always agree on the origins of this violence. Nevertheless, they are all convinced of the direct and indirect implications of these archaic methods on Haitian society. How can we condemn acts of violence against our fellow citizens when we welcome physical violence against small children? It is the daughters beaten by their fathers today who are at risk of being abused by their husbands tomorrow. These children, who were introduced to violence from an early age at school, will become these police officers who patrol our streets or worse, these bloodthirsty bandits who sow terror in our neighborhoods.
In Haiti, too many are the primary and secondary schools which openly use physical punishment on minors, by disciplinary officers and by some overzealous teachers. Haiti is a signatory of international treaties protecting against the abuse and exploitation of minors. All sectors of the nation, politicians, community leaders, Christians, voodooists, rich and poor, all Haitians, mothers and daughters, all Haitians, fathers and sons, in unison, let us raise our voices against all forms of violence exercised against children in schools.
Note well: in order to protect the identity of the victims, fictitious names are used.
Society and Culture