Sir Frank Peters
Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray!! Hip-hip, hooray!!!
Last month, Nepal (population 26-million) adopted the Act relating to Children 2018, which explicitly prohibits corporal punishment of children in all settings. It was certified by the President of Nepal on 18 September 2018 and is now in effect.
Understandably, the Nepalese children are elated and celebrating as never before. All their soulful tear-soaked prayers have been answered and they’re now convinced there is a God after all.
But what happens when their euphoria dies down? If Nepal is anything like Bangladesh the poor children are in for a shaking and a rude awakening. There is a massive difference between what the law demands on paper and the reality in practice. A leopard doesn’t change its spots over night and that also applies to the deep-rooted behaviour of ‘teachers’.
On January 13 2011, the school children of Bangladesh experienced similar euphoric bliss when Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md Sheikh Hasan Arif of the High Court Divisional bench outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladesh. In their summary, the noble justices defined corporal punishment as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.
Imagine how the children felt when many returned to their classrooms and were beaten as routinely as before. This time, however, confusion was added to the despicable mix. They, the children, knew corporal punishment was against the law. They saw news reports on TV, read them in the press, and heard them on radio. Surely, headmasters and teachers must have also been aware, not to mention the circular from the Education Ministry telling them explicitly, ‘no more corporal punishment’.
That was in 2011, seven years ago. Some ‘teachers’ still haven’t learned, which doesn’t say much for their teaching practices. I would prefer my child not to attend school than risk my child becoming being damaged mentally of physically for life.
Just recently a court in Haripur sent a schoolteacher of jail for allegedly injuring sixth grader Saqib Ramzan by beating him up. The child was severely tortured by teacher Abid Khan over making a ‘mistake’. It’s alleged Khan hit the student with fist and stick before slamming him onto the desk.
Then there’s ‘teacher’ C. R. Cariappa, who had hit a student with a stick for not wearing uniforms and shoes when attending school. During the thrashing, the student suffered injury to his left eye and lost his eyesight. Even after two surgeries, the eyesight of the boy could not be restored.
The Form Two student at Kaaga Girls High School had to undergo an operation to correct partial hearing loss. The vicious slaps by the ‘teacher’ left the students with ruptured eardrums. The secondary school ‘teacher’ was given three years in jail.
And the torture goes on and on unabated. The worst of all is when the child feels totally helpless, powerless, and knows no one to whom they can turn to for help and comforting, not even the police.
Take for example S. Danush, a 17-year-old student who became so upset after two ‘teachers’ beat him severely for speaking in the class. His father had died when he was 10. His mother, a coolie, said he was depressed when he returned from school, didn’t speak, and went to bed straight after dinner. During the night he committed suicide by hanging. The ‘teachers’ are on the run.
No loving parent in their right mind would want their precious offspring to commit suicide or to be damaged in other ways, yet those who send their children to schools and madrasahs knowingly subject them to that possibility where corporal punishment is meted out.
Where there’s corporal punishment there’s ALWAYS the possibility of serious or mental injury. And parents, who think it won’t happen to their child, are living with their head in the sand or are complete fools. Giving ‘teachers’ the benefit of the doubt. I would imagine none of them ever intend to cause grave injury to the child. It’s just something that happens. Nobody gets into a car expecting a car accident…it’s just something that happens unexpectedly… something goes wrong.
While car accidents may not be preventable, deaths, torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment to a child, can.
Sweden was the first country to recognize the horrific damage corporal punishment was doing to its children and in 1979 banned the evil practice in all settings. The ban clearly conveyed to the children of Sweden they were of optimum value… they were of the utmost importance… they were the future of the nation (and not just a nice-sounding jingle from the lips of a politician)… and as such were given every protection.
What a legacy to bequeath to all of its future generations. How proud each Swede must feel knowing that its government had the wisdom and common sense to act as they did. Although that happened almost four decades ago and thousands of trees were killed and pulped in the process of conveying the dangers of corporal punishment to the world, supported by hard, irrefutable evidence from leading experts in many areas, it’s still in widespread use.
There are people throughout Bangladesh who wear the honourable badge of being a teacher, but they’re not proper teachers. These can easily be identified if corporal punishment is part of their arsenal to discipline children. Sure, they are teachers, but they’re teaching children all the wrongs a good society abhors. They’re teaching children violence is the means to getting the desired results. They’re teaching children they’re only important and of value to society when they get to vote.
When we brutalise children, we lower their self-esteem and teach them poor self-control. This leads them into acrimonious relationships with others in society.
Today’s child is the adult of tomorrow. A damaged child today, is the broken adult of tomorrow. It is no wonder there is so much violence in society when it is taught in our schools.
It is ironic that we are debating corporal punishment in the education of children long after Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md Sheikh Hasan Arif concluded it is ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’ and legislated against the wicked practice.
It’s mournfully sad that corporal punishment in schools is still about, especially in rural areas where the laws of the jungle often prevail at grassroots level and the seemingly educated bully the uneducated.
It’s sad for the abused victims… sad for the nation… sad for the teaching profession and no doubt heart breaking for the principled good teachers who oppose it.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a respected foreign non-political friend of Bangladesh. Three Bangladeshi babies have been named ‘Frank Peters’ in his honour.