SIR FRANK PETERS
All children should be able to experience the sunrise without the treat of a whipping overcast and clouding their day
Teachers change people, people change the world. Unfortunately, both good and bad teachers have this power
This coming Wednesday, January 13, 2016, is a date to celebrate and embrace.
It marks the 5th Anniversary of the High Court ruling that banned corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrassas and teachers who mete it as outlaws.
In their summary the noble wise men, Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif, defined the act of corporal punishment as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.
But, apparently, not every teacher cares. The anniversary should be a time to recollect how cruel and unkind some ‘teachers’ once were to the Bangladeshi young and how education and knowledge triumphed over ignorance, but… that’s not for now.
Some people still have the audacity to compare corporal punishment to discipline.
There are also those silly people who justify corporal punishment to children because they experienced or lived through it in their childhood and hold an “it hasn’t done me any harm” attitude, as they reach for their “help me through the day” pills.
Since when has abuse not harmed a child (or an adult)?
Corporal punishment has absolutely no place in modern society. Explain to me how kicking, grabbing, shoving, slapping, pushing, pinching or confining children in a small space, taping their mouths shut, pulling their hair, tugging at their ears, belittling, mocking, embarrassing, swearing, cursing and robbing them of dignity, making them look foolish in front of their peers or breaking sticks upon their young tender hands, actually help their development – or the children who are watching – and helps them to become upstanding citizens?
And they’re the ‘lucky’ unlucky ones.
What about the children, whose hearing have been damaged for life because a brute, law-breaking ignorant ‘teacher’ whacked them so hard across their ears that it shattered their ear-drums? And give some thought to the children whose ribs were broken mercilessly by kicks or punches from ‘teachers’; or the children whose arms were dislocated… whose fingers were broken and disfigured for life.
But wait… wait… wait, there’s the all-time classic… the No. 1 in the demented teacher’s department that history must never forget.
Remember the incident at the Talimul Quran Mahila Madrasa in Kadamtali where 14 young girls mercilessly suffered excruciating pain and were physically scarred for life when the ‘teacher’ branded each child on their leg using a red-hot cooking spatula to give an example of what hell is like?
But that’s not all… what about the children beaten so badly by headmasters and ‘teachers’ who died as a result of brutal, merciless beatings, their young lives extinguished before they had time to blossom. Their only ‘crime’ was belief in a family system, a social system, and a school system they thought were protecting them.
And we mustn’t forget the pitiably frightened children who felt isolated and abandoned, who didn’t know which way to turn for help or had decided there was no one there for them, and saw the only way out of their hellish misery was through suicide… their final alarm to tell the world there’s something horribly wrong.
All children should be able to experience the sunrise without the treat of a whipping overcast and clouding their day.
Where there’s corporal punishment there’s ALWAYS the possibility the next fatal victim could be your child; a relative, or a child you know.
At which point, when hitting a child does it actually become child abuse? After several wallops on the hands, legs and buttocks with a bamboo cane, a few well-aimed slaps to the face with an open hand or a clenched fist, or after the child becomes comatose? Or maybe after the child has been scarred as in the case of the Talimul Quran Mahila Madrasa children?
It is not possible for children to love, respect, and become good citizens in a social system that abuses them.
Corporal punishment, however seemingly insignificant, is wrong. Corporal punishment is child abuse however light it might appear – there are no degrees of wrongness. Just as a woman is pregnant or she isn’t, there’s no ‘tiny bit pregnant’ category.
Up to 2011, Children in Bangladesh were brainwashed by past and present generations into believing corporal punishment was some kind of miraculous vitamin pill that was actually good for them, kept them on the straight and narrow, and although like vile tasting medicine, it had to be taken... for their own good.
Many children had the misfortune to be brought up in families of ignorance who knew no better, but who trusted the teaching profession to know and to perform what’s right in assisting their child’s upbringing.
Let’s pause momentarily… There are teachers and there are ‘teachers’ (pseudo teachers). There are some teachers in Bangladesh, among the best in the world, who are consummate professionals, caring, compassionate, phenomenal at their job, loved and admired by their pupils, and an invaluable asset to the community, the nation, and who deserve all the credit and appreciation that can be given. This report is not aimed at them.
Teachers change people, people change the world. Unfortunately, both good and bad teachers have this power. Children listen, observe, and mimic good or bad behaviour. Their sponge-like minds soak-in whatever they’re told from those they trust, especially.
Last February His Holiness Pope Francis made remarks that were interpreted by many worldwide to mean he supported corporal punishment to children.
He said: "One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say, 'I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them. How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity!" he added. "He has to punish them, but does it justly and moves on.”
I was not the only one in the world infuriated by his remarks, although I believe (or maybe it’s a case I want to believe) it was a mere slip-of-tongue and not meant to be taken seriously.
Dr. Stacey Patton from The American University in Washington DC, was also outraged. She said: “There is nothing beautiful or dignified about physically assaulting a child. At its core, corporal punishment — legalized brutality — is about intentionally causing pain. It is a form of humiliation that denies children the right to bodily integrity and puts them at risk for a slew of negative behaviors.
“The pediatrics, child development and psychological communities around the globe are in agreement that corporal punishment does not work to get children to comply. Parents will often repeat and escalate the intensity of hitting, placing children in danger. Scientists have repeatedly found that lightly hitting a child, even occasionally, is tied to mental disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, aggressive behavior and hyperactivity and juvenile delinquency.”
American best-selling author Nadine A. Block, with 25-years experience campaigning against corporal punishment, said: “Corporal punishment leads to physical injuries of children, psychological problems, alienation from school, school drop-outs and loss of self esteem, to name a few. It’s inhumane, damaging, ineffective, and archaic”.
That’s worth repeating…it’s inhumane, damaging, ineffective, and archaic. Isn’t that enough knowledge any parent needs to know to say ‘no’ to corporal punishment in their child’s school? I certainly think so think so.
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, human rights activist, and a respected foreign friend of Bangladesh.).