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Published in Print: August 17, 2001, as Dispatches

Dispatches

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KENYA

Caning Canned: Teachers in Kenya feel they’ve been forced to ridicule and humiliate their students now that they’re not allowed to strike them with a cane, according to the Kenyan newspaper the Nation. Since a nationwide caning ban was issued in April, teachers have complained to Kenya’s director of education that they don’t know how else to discipline errant students. "This will translate to poor academic standards," Geoffrey Griffin, director of a boy’s school, tells the paper. "If it is not against the law for parents to use the cane on their children, why should the same power be taken away from teachers?"


MALAYSIA

Birth Bother: The deputy minister of education has asked female teachers to help curb staff shortages and disruptions to students by planning their pregnancies so that they give birth during school holidays, the New Straits Times reports. Since 65 percent of the country’s teachers are women, pregnancies cause too many teachers to take leave every school year, Deputy Minister Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin said in June. The teachers’ union has protested the idea, calling it "inhuman" and an infringement on teachers’ rights. Its proposal to the education ministry: Call on retired teachers to substitute when women are on leave and make more of an effort to hire male teachers.


ENGLAND

Cursing Course: Some British children are learning about swearing in an unconventional way: They’re taking classes in it. Last year, teachers asked students in a Cornwall school to write down all the cusses they could think of, then discussed them. The purpose? To discourage kids from using bad words by talking about what they mean. "Young people are being asked to examine critically the words and phrases they and the media use," Trisha Hewitt of the Cornwall Local Education Authority told Plymouth’s Western Morning News in July. "The aim is to get them to understand that inappropriate language can be offensive, hurtful, and inflammatory." The class, taught to students ages 11 to 16, is scheduled to become part of the national curriculum this fall, but it will be up to individual schools to decide whether to use the lessons.


CANADA

J’accuse: In July, a Superior Court judge ordered Albert Seidler to pay Montreal teacher David Fletcher $70,000 (Canadian), stating that Seidler had attempted to destroy Fletcher’s career "through a gratuitous, malicious, and vicious attack," the Montreal Gazette reports. In 1992, Seidler’s 8-year-old daughter claimed she had been molested by Fletcher, an award-winning teacher at her school. Fletcher said he was innocent.While the allegations were dismissed, the girl’s father continued to accuse Fletcher for another four years. Finally, Fletcher sued him for defamation. The Montreal Teachers’ Association, which represented Fletcher, hopes this outcome won’t deter parents from complaining about a teacher, just demonstrate that there are consequences for malicious attacks.

—Katharine Dunn

Vol. 13, Issue 1, Page 15

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