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Of plastic and licks

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Had planned on writing about lawless school principals and teachers who continue to ignore both the National School Code of Conduct (2009) and the Children Act (2012) in sanctioning and applying corporal punishment at their institutions.

All of us can name at least half a dozen schools where “licks” are still administered in open defiance of a law which aspires to the “prevention of cruelty to children” and which prescribes penalties of between $5,000 and $50,000 and jail from six to 10 years.

By the way, by virtue of the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act of 2000, corporal punishment is also prohibited in “alternative care” facilities including children’s homes/orphanages.

“Well, I was beaten and I turned out okay,” is what we keep hearing. Sorry, but no, you did not “turn out okay”; you are here advocating something described by experts in the field as “cruel” behaviour against children. You are also expressing support for a practice that is disappearing as a feature of life in the civilised world and is banned, under all circumstances, in at least 53 states.

Among the countries holding out on any kind of commitment on this are Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Somalia. Sounds like a nice club to belong to, I suppose.

As to the deterrent effect of such violence against children, I wonder whether a survey has ever been done among the worst offenders in the prison system to determine how many of them were beaten at home and in school. Anybody want to take bets on this one?

See? If I had chosen to write about corporal punishment in the school system, I would have (uncharacteristically) not run out of space.

Oh, by the way, as a parent myself, have I ever administered corporal punishment? No. So on to something else that should also not consume too much time and space.

Why is there a debate about a reduction in the gratuitous distribution of plastic bags at the supermarket? The hysteria is embarrassing, folks. This is a baby step along the path we will eventually have to tread, whether we like it or not.

No sensible person I know of has advocated a complete ban on all plastic, including reusable plastic bags and containers. In fact, plastic is one of the more useful substances conjured up by humanity to make life more convenient and easy.

However, there are common uses for plastic that the world has increasingly turned attention to because of the undeniable damage being sustained by the natural environment as a result of abuse. Plastic single-use bags are just one area of concern.

This goes way beyond concerns about the poor aesthetics of discarded bottles and bags along our highways and on the beach. For example, the sight of plastic “islands” along the Central American Caribbean coast is dramatic and heart-breaking, but many are probably unaware of the comparable presence of plastic “reefs” in our own waters.

I remember the days when the reckless disposal of plastic bags and containers was as common as corporal punishment at school. Everybody thought we would be okay. That “nature” has a way of “balancing” things off. Things are changing.

For, today, Caribbean countries are reaping the environmental whirlwind through the degradation of fishing grounds, agricultural lands and tourism assets as a direct result of our prior ignorance.

At this time, we should be hearing every day from the experts in such matters. SWMCOL CEO, Ronald Roach, has thankfully been an informed advocate and has reminded us that even as the state agency processes 30 tonnes of plastic monthly, this represents less than 1% of what is actually generated as waste by you and me.

I know that through programmes initiated by SWMCOL and the EMA school children are aware of the dangers and opportunities posed by the problem of plastic.

Now to turn the attention of adults away from “cutarse” and in the direction of practising what their children already know and understand about the scourge of plastic.


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