Hey teacher, leave the kids alone!
Our childhood memories are often accompanied by words like ‘carefree days’, ‘playing in the sun’, ‘protected and loved’. Being picked up and spun around by loved ones or being pushed on a swing are memories that tend to stay with children throughout their life.
However, sometimes I wonder if children today will collect memories in the same perspective? Sad though it is, I don’t think they will. With corporal punishment overshadowing their liveliness, it’s like a never-ending road trip with bad directions.
Pakistan is among those few states where the method of beating children to discipline them is preferred and accepted with pride. Despite the growing census that corporal punishment breaches children’s fundamental human rights, many children in Pakistan are still subjected to assaults by their teachers. Fighting against corporal punishment is not merely a child protection issue; in fact, it is the child’s basic right to be respected for his human dignity.
We believe that schools are institutions built solely for one purpose and that is the dispersal of knowledge. They play the primary role in fostering and cultivating concepts of education in young minds and teachers serve as building blocks in these institutions. They are the disciplinarians who are responsible for educating an entire community. Unfortunately, in order to fulfil this grave responsibility, sometimes teachers resort to physical punishment.
It is no wonder that our society is so primitive, violent and ruthless. The extent of using corporal punishment, its administration, means and the associated physical injuries has gone too far. Just recently, four male students were beaten by a baton in Faisalabad resulting in severe injuries to them. Their parents protested against this act of misconduct but the authorities have not taken any action against the teacher yet.
Although many are aware of this incident, only a few realise that this incident will cast a shadow the length of a lifetime for these young victims.
Unfortunately, corporal punishment has a history of being considered essential for education to take place in an orderly and disciplined manner. According to the provisions in Section 337 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), parents of children who are being beaten in school may seek legal action against the unethical teacher. However, this fails to address the beating of children by the parents at home. According to research data reported in The Express Tribune, 79% of the parents surveyed, fully or partially agreed that a small amount of physical punishment is necessary for children.
How can we save the future of our nation when we have such a mindset? Last year, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a bill which clearly mandates a punishment of one year imprisonment and Rs50,000 fine on the teacher who practices corporal punishment on students. It also detailed further punishment if injury occurred during beating by hand or using a stick. Pulling of hair or any other body part was also added in the rudiments of the bill.
Sadly, this bill took too long to be passed by the Senate.
Section 89 of the PPC is the legal culprit to this cruelty since it gives a legal right to practice corporal punishment in all settings. This is why teachers across the country have no fear of using physical force or restraint as a means of punishment in classrooms.
There is no denying the fact that corporal punishment is one of the topmost reasons behind students dropping out of school. What makes matters worse is that these physical injuries are not mild and transient; they are serious enough to damage the child physically and mentally.
I firmly believe that if a child is brought up with love, respect and security, he will grow up into a responsible and confident adult. Beating children only makes things worse and the use of punishment which causes pain and injury to children cannot contribute to their education or character building.
On the contrary, corporal punishment affects the emotional and intellectual development of children as well their sense of well-being. Unfortunately, our children have become silent victims of corporal punishment and they are so utterly terrorised by such traumatic events that they don’t even share such incidents with their parents.
There is no doubt that this harsh tradition of corporal punishment in schools needs to end. I would strongly suggest to teachers today to try and develop effective communication with their students and to treat their students with respect. Teachers should aim to provide a friendly school environment where learning is encouraged in order to make our students more confident and skilled.
It is imperative to understand that children who are subjected to corporal punishment might resort to the same in their adulthood. Hence, if we don’t put an end to the violence we mete out to them, our society will continue to spiral towards violence and aggression.
I appeal to the Government of Pakistan to take serious steps to train teachers in honing their skills as facilitators and mentors for students. Special emphasis needs to be given to the idea that our education practices are unethical and need to be changed immediately.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.