Protecting Our Tomorrows Through Child Friendly Schools

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Administering corporal punishment has proven be to a controversial subject in Barbados’ educational system in recent years.?? Many persons are of the view that if you "spare the rod you will spoil the child"; while others are strongly opposed to any idea of hitting a child, arguing that this attitude breeds violent behavior.

With the assistance of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development has rolled out the Child Friendly Schools (CFS) Programme, which offers an alternative to corporal punishment, while not eliminating the use of such discipline as a last resort.

Acting Deputy Chief Education Officer, Joy Gittens, explained that the CFS concept was first introduced into the school system in May 2007, when the Hillaby- Turners Hall Primary School implemented it.??

"CFS’ genesis was actually at a workshop held in Trinidad, where UNICEF had brought several stakeholders together with the idea to get a sort of a coalition against corporal punishment," she explained, adding that the Hillaby-Turners Hall, Principal, Karen Best, had challenged UNICEF’S Representative, Tom Olsen, at that meeting to use her school as a pilot for the programme here.

"The results from Hillaby have had a domino effect throughout the Caribbean, and we now have 11 schools throughout the region which would have settled on the concept…," the Deputy Chief Education Officer added.

Locally, Ms. Gittens noted that statistics derived from the Hillaby-Turners Hall School have shown a decrease in the number of cases being reported to the principal; a

reduction in the use of corporal punishment in the classroom; improved behaviours among the student population; and a willingness by children to express themselves.??

She expressed the hope that this approach, which is now operative in nine primary schools and one secondary school, would lead to less violence within the school system.?? "You know we have this concept of bullying happening within the schools, and some people feel that school is a threatening place, we therefore hope that they now see the school as a supportive environment," the Deputy Chief pointed out.

So, how does the CFS work??? As soon as a principal buys into the CFS concept, he/she has to get the support of all staff members. The principal then selects a support team of no more than five teachers who are to be trained by UNICEF. Once the training is complete, the teachers return to their schools and conduct a needs analysis with other teachers, auxiliary staff and parents to design a plan for the school.?? Each plan is therefore unique.

UNICEF will then conduct further training and provide technical support, which includes the use of psychologists to evaluate students.

With regard to the children, Education Development Officer in the Ministry of Education, Janice Reid, explained that those schools that have signed-on to the CFS programme would use the colour wheel in the classroom as a way of monitoring children’s behaviour.??

"The colour wheel is a behavioural instrument where the student is responsible for moving a little token – called a peg – to different areas of the wheel, depending on

their behaviour. So, for instance, if a child is really good – academically or behaviour wise, he/she may stay on green.?? The next part of the wheel is yellow – which is a warning.?? So, if the child is doing something wrong, depending on what the consequences are for the whole school, the child then moves his or her peg to yellow.??

Children have to be responsible for their own behaviour modification, and if they continue to misbehave they move to the other colours on the wheel until it gets to red.?????? Students do not want to be on red, so their behaviour has really changed.?? Many of them look out for each other, in terms of reminding their classmates what is expected and what is not expected of a person in a CFS school," Ms Reid clarified.????

Children also use affirmation mirrors as a way of boosting their self esteem. These mirrors are placed in classrooms with positive messages, such as "I am smart" and "I am a superstar", which are repeated five times daily.

??The Ministry plans to roll out the CFS Programme in an additional ten schools every year.

kmoore@barbados.gov.bb

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