Call to legislate on corporal punishment in schools

September 22, 2019

LAHORE : Child rights activists have called for legislation against corporal punishment in schools in the wake of death of a student, Hunain, at the hands of a teacher at a private school...

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LAHORE : Child rights activists have called for legislation against corporal punishment in schools in the wake of death of a student, Hunain, at the hands of a teacher at a private school recently.

Rights activists, educationists and lawyers met at a hotel to push for an end to corporal punishment in schools. “There is no exclusive legislation to punish corporal punishment other than in Sindh where it has been declared criminal,” pointed out Iftikhar Mubarak of an NGO that took the initiative to bring the Education Department officials and rights activists together to find a solution to the problem.

A number of incidents of corporal punishment have come to the fore in recent months: A teacher was suspended for making a student clean his shoes in front of everyone as punishment at Government Higher Secondary, Farooqabad, on April 15. A schoolteacher in Sharaqpur village, Maliwala area, tied a class 3 girl with ropes, hanged her from a tree upside down and beat her brutally – all this was filmed by another teacher on May 22. A class 10 student of MA Jinnah School in Multan was beaten by the principal and two teachers on February 8 who stopped hitting him when he fell unconscious. These are some of the cases reported in Punjab in 2019.

“Corporal punishment has huge impact not just on a child’s psychology; many a times it hurts them physically as well,” says PhD scholar in Psychology Uzma Ashiq. Perfectly normal children start stuttering, stammering or loose hearing and develop speech problem because of beatings and slapping. “Children shaken violently lose confidence.”

She warned both teachers and parents against doing so. Nothing humiliates a person as a slap on the face and a child cannot hit back. “They hold a grudge and takes that out in some other way when he grows up. They become manipulative,” she says. “Children who are physically abused can never be leaders,” she says. “Then there are teachers who say mean things to students like ‘dull brain’ and it damages their souls.” Around 70 school psychologists are leaving university every year, ready to work. She suggests the School Department hire them. It will certainly benefit the environment.

Tanveer Jahan of an NGO, who that has also trained many teachers, says that a child is everyone’s responsibility — parents, teachers, community and state. “As a nation we do not know goal-setting.”

A teacher says there are blunders in maths and computer science textbooks of government schools. He says. When a teacher explains again and again and the child is still not clear, the teacher gets angry.” Another educationist from University of Education says, “Give solutions to teachers. If they are not supposed to beat children how do they deal with the ones not studying. Change the word punishment with reinforcement.” She stresses on the need to strive for an inclusive society.

A notification issued on Jan 23, 2018 by the Punjab chief minister’s monitoring force of the School Education Department expressly says, “There is complete ban on corporal punishment in all educational institutions (public and private). In case of any violation of the instructions of the department, strict disciplinary proceedings against the responsible head teachers/teachers will be initiated.”

Pakistan became a signatory to Article 19 of the UN Convention on the rights of the children 30 years back. Still in Universal Periodic Review in 2017, Cuba suggested “Pakistan consider the implementation of the necessary safeguards for the protection of children against corporal punishment.” We have been unable to translate our commitments into action.

Dr Abdul Waheed Raza of the School Education Department says that there are one crore 25 lakh students in government schools while one crore are studying in the private sector and 30 million are in madaris. Around three crore children are getting education in the province. The School Education Department inducts 35,000 teachers every year and they are people with good academic credentials, he says. While the department official says teacher-student ratio is 1:31. “We know that there are schools where the number of students in a class exceeds 100. So there is need to rationalise teacher-student ratio and at the same time help the teacher with anger management,” he says.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” as says Frederick Douglas says to which Baqir Naqvi from Quaid-e-Azam Academy for Educational Development, the government teacher training institute, says, “We are trying to raise strong children through broken men.”

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