‘Do no harm’

Violence should never be an option to discipline or motivate a child, be it in academics or sports.

Unfortunately, there are some who still think that aggression for the purpose of “educating” is acceptable and, in some cases, necessary, said Teach For Malaysia (TFM) research, design and impact manager Sawittri Charun.

“At the societal level, there is inadequate understanding of the cascading impact of violence on child development.

“Not everyone realises that a child’s developing brain is at great risk when exposed to environmental stress and emotional aggression, which could cause harm to the brain, even though the effects may not be immediately obvious,” she said.

Just three months ago, a video of a volleyball coach slapping two of his players after they lost points for the team went viral on social media.

The episode, which saw the father of one of the teenagers calling for no punitive action against the coach, who “is a stickler for discipline”, divided parents and teachers on how far one should go when disciplining a child.

Sending a strong message that such action is unacceptable, Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh and Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek subsequently announced that the coach’s licence had been revoked and he had been banned from ever being a sports coach, including in schools.

Calling on the government to do more to protect children, especially in schools, Sawittri said adherence to, and implementation of, policies designed to protect a child’s safety, privacy and dignity leaves much to be desired.“The lack of effective monitoring results in policies that are not implemented and laws that lack bite,” she said.

Sunway University School of Medical and Life Sciences associate dean (International) Prof Alvin Ng Lai Oon said there are many factors that go into aggressive behaviours such as slapping.

“Pointing the finger at one factor is oversimplifying the problem.“What’s more important now is to make it right and to bring ethics into the picture,” he said, adding that the value “do no harm” must be inculcated in every educator and in every learning institution.

Indeed, to prevent incidents such as the slapping of students in the name of discipline from ever happening again, all parties, including educational institutions, parents and the community, must be on the same page.

It is high time that we raised awareness about the damaging effects of physical and emotional abuse on children, and encouraged a culture of respect, empathy and kindness in our schools. — By FAWWAZ FADZLULLAH

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