11-Year-Old Tongan Student Hospitalized After Use Of Corporal Punishment In School

Children's advocacy group says teachers should learn 'appropriate disciplinary techniques'

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, March 21, 2017) – A children's advocacy group in Tonga says there needs to be more training for teachers about appropriate disciplinary techniques after an 11-year-old student was severely beaten and hospitalised.

Teachers in Tongan schools are still using corporal punishment despite the practice being officially banned in 2014.

Last week a teacher used so much force on an 11-year-old boy, that he had to be treated in hospital.

Ofa Guttenbeil Likiliki, the director of the Tonga Women and Children's Centre, said the case highlighted the need to create awareness about alternative methods of discipline.

"Using alternative methods is something that is sorely lacking amongst the teaching profession here in Tonga," she told the ABC's Pacific Beat program.

"It was commonly used throughout all schools in Tonga by the majority of the teachers, so [the case] is just a reflection of something that was boiling in the system that needs to be addressed urgently."

Tongan police have reportedly launched an investigation into the incident.

Ms Likiliki said while efforts were being made to educate teachers about why they should not physically or verbally abuse children, for some, the message was not getting through.

"The problem is there was no training or upskilling of teachers to bring them on board, so that they understood where the law stands and the limitations of their use of discipline in the classroom," she said.

"They think it is a form of discipline that has worked for many years, so 'why should we change it?'

"But I think, more and more, as these cases come to light, the dialogue must continue and must be held."

Finau Tutone, president of the Friendly Islands Teachers Association, said teachers "should not go to such extremes" with corporal punishment, but many parents are asking teachers to do it.

"When we meet with the parents, the parents are continuing to support the teachers to use corporal punishment if their kids are still not complying with directions," he said.

"Banning corporal punishment in schools was going too far.

"There should be an avenue for corporal punishment, but it has to be an acceptable form of punishment — not a very harsh one."

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