An Open Letter to the Minister of Education of Antigua and Barbuda: Daryll Matthew


Dear Minister Matthew,

I pen this letter in response to an article in the Daily Observer, titled ‘Corporal Punishment will remain on the Books – Education Minister’ published on the 15th of February, 2022.

Having read this article, I have several questions. Firstly, when did it become the practice, the norm, or the convention for education policy in Antigua and Barbuda to be decided by way of popular opinion and not scientific research nor evidence-based reasoning? Is this a good practice, if it is so? Is it not true, then, that we have made redundant the professional careers of the many hard-working technocrats, consultants and civil servants hired to provide guidance and craft policy on education standards and child welfare? Should we not cut, therefore, the government’s wage bill and let a Facebook or Twitter poll decide the education policy that will make students fit and competitive for a 21st century labour market?

I ask these questions because in the article a quote attributed to you suggested that the reason for keeping corporal punishment on the books was, ‘the public by and large said that they wanted it to remain’. I scanned through the rest of the article to see if there was some other authority or source cited that could have supported your position, alas, to my fair surprise and disappointment, that was it. That was the evidence. “The public said they want it, so my hands are tied.” This is the extent of the argumentation offered in the piece.

Now, we must be fair, you probably did add more than this in your interview, and to the extent that there was selective quoting we must give you the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, the quote seems hard to stand on its own, so I suspect that it isn’t your full position. In fact, you have expressed your own personal disapproval of the use of corporal punishment in the past. Here is what you said in an earlier interview about the topic,

“To me, that is one of the remnants of slavery that disturbs me greatly that in our society in 2021 we believe that the best way to discipline someone is to beat them into submission.

“I just can’t wrap my mind around that at all and so it was discussed at length in Cabinet yesterday. The Cabinet is mindful of the impact it could have on the society and the psyche, and I have been asked to have some consultations to discuss with the various groups – the teacher’s union, the parents and so forth – and get some feedback.”

So, what were the results of the consultations? Can we find them published anywhere? Whom did you consult? How did you consult? How many different stake holders were consulted? All we have is ‘the public wanted it’. The public who?

You have seen the evidence of its misuse, the most recent of which has led to two girls being beaten until blood was drawn. Surely, you must have been advised as well, that there exists no scientific basis upon which to ground the belief that corporal punishment has a behavioural effect. If not, dismiss your advisers. Child Psychologists have addressed this, so too have behavioural experts, and social workers who work with at risk and troubled youth.

So, Minister Matthew, if this isn’t your full view, you should clarify and extend it at the earliest occasion. You should tell us how does the Ministry and by extension you as its head, decide policy that determines whether our children have a safe environment in which to learn and excel. Is it on scientific and expert advice? Gut feeling? Whim and intuition? Or the collective wisdom of Voice of the People and Pointe FM callers? If you personally do not support it, and you oversee policy, what prevents you from acting? Is it nerves?  Is it timidity? Is it that you are afraid to tell the public, they are wrong? Is it re-election concerns? It must be something because some of us are puzzled by the sudden change of heart.

So, I ask politely, what evidence, research, or fact-based reasoning supports the policy to keep corporal punishment on the books, especially when we know that it does and has harmed children.

I look forward to your response.


Best Wishes,

Carlon Knight.

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  1. speaking of letters . . .

    @ ANR, when will we get back DEAR KATE? A few moons ago you notified us that Dear Kate will be taking a break and be back soon. A wah ahppen ANR?

  2. Here is another person wanting us to follow America, Canada and the UK and willingly produce criminals who no one can talk to because they were allowed to do whatever as children with no real punishment. Taking away privileges don’t cause children to rethink their positions, especially when so many parents allow television and social media to raise their children. Corporal punishment does not need to be abuse, and that is where legislation needs to be focused, ensuring that a line is drawn, but not doing away with corporal punishment altogether. Most people against it were rude and looked at getting licks as punishment when they did wrong as abuse, instead of desisting in what was wrong and understanding that is why they were punished. The removal of corporal punishment and letting children say and do as they please is what has ruined society in larger countries. We don’t need to follow suite.

    • NONSENSE: but you go an hit the wrong persons child and see if you na get slap by the big 6 foot 4 daddy. Corporal punishment is abuse. How you you lie a spanking? I have never hit my daughter and she is awesome.

  3. @Antigua First: Teachers do not have and should not have the rights to punish any child by beatings. How the hell would you know that beatings prevents those children from becoming criminals. Where is your damn proof? Do not come on this portal and make jack ass statements. My children were never hit by any Teachers in this World. They turned out to be constructive,law abiding Citizens. I do not beat my children. No Teacher could lose the care of their brains to do that. For I would be prepared for the hell of it to pay. Some Teachers take out their vengance into their private lives on children in Schools by beating them badly. I did see pictures of two little children that were beaten by Teachers in Antigua. The Children were beaten so badly,their skins were broken and bleeding. Why those Teachers were not arrested and be charged for abuse is mind boggling to me. Stop the BEATINGS of our Children in Public Schools inna Antigua and Barbuda,NOW.Find others means to punish a Child without a Beating.

    • Find other punishments? Make sure to add “but do not a abuse the same”, because trust me, far far greater numbers of children are scarred and abused by teachers emotionally, psychologically and intellectually than by corporal punishment

  4. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14. Wise words

    There is nothing wrong with taking public opinion into consideration. An elected official’s job is to bridge the gap between the technocrats and the general public. Policy decisions cannot exclude public opinion. Otherwise, what
    is the point of Ministers anyway – they are usually not much qualified in the Ministry that they head. Do you really want technocrats making decisions for the country with no regard for how their policies might affect the average person?

    Secondly, published studies etc. are normally conducted in other jurisdictions and their findings might not apply perfectly to our local community. In the absence of our own local studies, one cannot assume that other countries’ policies would work out as well here. Voiced public opinion, even just from comments and call-in programmes are a form of informal study. If a large number of persons are passionately against an idea, it would be best to reconsider ones’ approach – maybe win them over in a different way or compromise on some points.

    Finally, regarding corporal punishment, throughout human history it has been used for things other than slavery. To stop or not to stop… Like most things the best approach is probably somewhere in the middle. E.g. use as many other techniques as possible to redirect delinquent behaviour and only use corporal punishment for incredibly serious matters.

  5. People always refer to isolated stories to justify their position. These disciplines are not 100% deterrent, currently we are seeing more destructive behaviour in schools where teachers are fearful of their lives all because kids doing what they feel like doing without consequences. Teachers were never afraid to call for order in the classroom (and the majority were ladies) and for those who advocate that 6′ 4″ daddy, that teacher may have a 5′ 0″ family member (doesn’t have to be that tall) who will/can take other measures too with that 6′ 4″ daddy. There must be some deterrent measures in place for Teachers who on a day to day basis trying to teach upwards of 16 students from varying backgrounds, and have some spoil/rude child disrupting class. If unnu nah want unnu pickney for get licks when dem constantly misbehave den home school dem.

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