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     Volume 11 |Issue 44| November 09, 2012 |


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Spare the Rod

Corporal punishment is just another name for child abuse, torture, cruelty, and brutality

Sir Frank Peters

One subject common to the worldwide media these days is corporal punishment in schools. The Internet is bursting at the seams with reports of its evil cruelty and its lifelong ill effects on children and society in general, but despite the overwhelming evidence against, there's a minority in favour of the inhuman brutality.

And this, ironically, comes from parents who profess their unconditional love for their children and 'want to do what's right for them'!

It's a very sad world when having your children beaten with a stick by an aggressive, perhaps even psychotic 'teacher' can be construed as a demonstration of 'love'.

In May this year 14 Allah-loving young girls at Talimul Quran Mahila Madrassah in Kadamtali suffered inhuman torture and were literally branded for life with a red-hot cooking spatula by their 'teacher', Jesmin Akhter. A month later principal Abu Dadra M Arif Billah ruthlessly caned 14 students at Kushtia Police Lines School and College because they refused to attend his coaching classes. Their crime? They came from poor families and could not afford the tuition fee demanded by him.

Then there was 15-year-old Hafiz-i-Quran Abu Bakar, of the Jamia Rehmania Madrassa in Pakistan, who was revising his knowledge of the Koran when he made some mistakes and had his legs broken with a wooden stick by Vice Principal Qari Kaleemullah.

It's reported Abu fainted from the beating and it's likely his backbone was also affected. In the hands of such demented God-less people where does the evil brutality of children stop and the venerated lessons and teachings of the Holy Koran begin?

Discipline is essential in all our lives: adults and children alike, all are in need. A well-rounded society is built on discipline. An army or police force could not function properly without discipline. Beating a child with a bamboo cane, scarring them for life or breaking their bones is NOT discipline.

Corporal punishment is just another name for child abuse, torture, cruelty and brutality that can physically and mentally impair a pupil for his entire life. It's a knee-jerk reaction to a minor, insignificant situation by adult terrorists full of exaggerated self-importance who strike fear into fragile, vulnerable, impressionable and defenceless young children.

Corporal punishment is totally without virtue. It's physically and mentally damaging and speaks no praise of the perpetrator, or of the schools and society that permits it. Inflicting physical blows and mental torture upon a child breeds resentment, violence, disrespect, hatred vengeance and promotes retaliation, whether immediately upon the society that allowed it, or years later.

A couple of swift whacks with a bamboo cane across the victim's hands, legs or back might… just might ensure the transgression isn't repeated, but what about the thoughts of hurt, resentment, low-esteem, anger, fear, distress, revenge and other mentally-damaging thoughts that manifest during this period of pain and sickening humiliation? The pain will subside, but some tears never dry.

Now see a similar situation through the eyes of a child who has been incubated in his mother's womb for nine months and has come to know trust, love and protection therein. Imagine the horror, confusion and disappointment felt at their very first corporal punishment experience.

Discipline is the foundation stone of a good society and essential to all our lives. If there is no discipline, there is no control. Without control there's disorder…disorder is the precursor of chaos…chaos begets crises…in crises hope is lost; and if there is no hope, life isn't worth living.

So as fresh air is to lungs, discipline is essential to our wellbeing and without discipline nothing on this earth worthwhile would be achieved. Musa Ibrahim would not have climbed Mount Everest or Niaz Patwary climbed Mount Kilmanjaro or any of the Olympians achieved gold, silver or bronze.

Discipline manifests and is cultivated from within… it's very personal… a state of mind. It is essential for our mental and physical development. Discipline (just like love) cannot be beaten in.

What we still witness in some schools and madrassahs, despite the law against it, is undisciplined, ignorant, law-breaking 'teachers' exercising horrific and shameful torture and cruelty on children.

On January 13, 2011, the High Court Divisional bench comprising of Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md Sheikh Hasan Arif defined corporal punishment as 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom'.

Adults beating little children with sticks, fists, leather belts, bamboo canes, kicking, pinching, taping their mouths, pulling their hair and ears, mocking, ridiculing, embarrassing, swearing, cursing, belittling, making a child look foolish in any way or to humiliate the child in front of others just isn't right in any enlightened, civilized society. Corporal punishment is reprehensible and degrading to both 'teacher' and victim.

Ask yourself, which is more conducive to good learning: a school in which the pupils are guided positively by caring adults and are happy or one in which they live in constant fear of ridicule and beatings?

Respect commands respect and it's a truism that teachers who are respected by their pupils never have to resort to corporal punishment. A teacher's goal, therefore, should be to gain their respect.

For the rest of us, there is no point in moaning, groaning and complaining about how society has decayed when the broken children march shamelessly through the grounds and dormitories of the hallowed halls of learning brandishing knives, machetes and guns and only too willing to try beat their political ideology into fellow students with their bamboo canes and baseball bats.

They're only exercising what they learned as children that violence is power … violence is acceptable … as long as you are the one who holds the power. Consistently, studies from around the world prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that children beaten in early childhood are more likely to become aggressive in later years and they learn that resolving social problems with violence is acceptable. Violence breeds violence without offering apology.

If you don't want your child to become a bully, a thug, miscreant or graduate from the Bangla Bhai University of Social Hostility then don't allow a salaried thug/bully/miscreant/law-breaking 'teacher' to beat them and damage them for life.

The writer, Sir Frank Peters, is a human rights advocate, a former newspaper publisher and editor and a loyal foreign friend of Bangladesh.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012