Paulina Quintao – Teachers are continuing to use violence to discipline students at schools, even though there is a zero-tolerance policy in place.National MP Anastasia Amaral said she disagreed with teachers using violence against students during the learning process because this type of attitude only frightened the students.
"We say zero tolerance, but the teachers continue hitting students and the government, especially the relevant ministries, never take any action to [address] the issue," she told a plenary session at National Parliament.
"You can hit the students to educate, but not to kill [them], this is a crime and should be processed according to the law," she said.
In a recent case at Kalisa Public High school in Viqueque municipality, she said a teacher hit a female student until she fell unconscious in the classroom because she broke school regulations.
The student in question was then taken to Dili by her family for treatment and to have an x-ray.
Amaral said incidents like this were common and often resulted in students falling unconscious. She therefore called on the Ministry of Education to take measures against teachers who committed violence against students as they did not deserve to be educators.
In 2009 under the previous government a zero-tolerance policy for violence in schools for was announced, with the objective of preventing teachers from using physical violence to discipline students.
Meanwhile, Viqueque municipality's Director of Education, Amilio Amaral, rejected the claim a female student was hit by a teacher. "It is not true, a student fainted because she was possessed (by spirits), not hit by a teacher," he said.
He also called on the MP to show proof when raising any cases related to violence against students in schools.
Meanwhile, Aileu student Odelia da Luz Vargas said young women continue to face violence in schools, at home and in their communities. She said part of the reason was that there was a lack of awareness about the zero-tolerance policy for teachers.
"The girls are not brave enough to say no to violence that they face, because they are afraid," she said.
She also expressed concern about the long distances students had to travel from their homes to school as this was major threat for young girls and put them at increased risk of sexual abuse and assault on the street.