Children continue to study under the shadow of corporal punishment

October 21, 2019

Grade-five student Abdul Rehman had switched ties with a classmate. After break time, when they were exchanging their ties again, their class teacher caught them. Rehman was taken to the principal,...

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Grade-five student Abdul Rehman had switched ties with a classmate. After break time, when they were exchanging their ties again, their class teacher caught them. Rehman was taken to the principal, who scolded the 11-year-old boy, smacked the nape of his neck and kicked him in the abdomen.

This happened at the Pioneer City School in Gulistan-e-Jauhar Block-8. The incident terrified the minor. At home after school, the child complained to his parents about blood in his urine.

“I asked him why this had happened,” Rehman’s father Shahid Mushtaq told The News. “He narrated the whole incident and said that after being beaten by the principal, he had become so frightened that he did not even go to the toilet for at least three hours.”

The boy was taken to a doctor, who suggested an immediate operation. The minor underwent surgery at the Sindh Government Children Hospital near Nagan Chowrangi and was closely monitored for over 48 hours.

Mushtaq later told the principal that Rehman had had to go through the ordeal because of his beating. “But the principal said my son and his three brothers should not be sent to the school again because all of them are spoiled and can never get an education.”

The father didn’t know what to do, so he sent his other sons to school while Rehman was still unable to rejoin. However, the children were refused entry. “Perhaps the principal was annoyed because of our complaints about the beating and other problems we had observed at the school.”

The gatekeeper relayed the principal’s message to Mushtaq that he should send his children to a better school because this one wasn’t good. The father observed that after the embarrassing experience, his children grew quiet because not only their friends but almost all the kids at school had witnessed their humiliation.

“They tell me they don’t want to go back to the same institution because they feel they were embarrassed in front of the entire school. They’ve never behaved like this. I feel shattered seeing them this way.”

‘Pack of lies’

The principal, who did not wish to be named, told The News that Mushtaq was telling a pack of lies. “He’s a blackmailer. He hasn’t paid his children’s fees since April and now he’s making up stories. However, I did hit the kid, but it was because he was misbehaving. It’s necessary to control children.”

The man claimed that Rehman was already sick and that he didn’t go to the hospital because of him. “These parents tell their children to misbehave in school, so after they’re punished, they can use it as an excuse to get a year’s fee waived off.”

The principal has been running the school for two decades now. “I’ve observed that kids from poor backgrounds don’t study. They can’t because their families don’t give them the due attention, unlike rich parents.”

Deficient records

According to the relevant officials, the Directorate of Inspection & Registration of Private Institutions Sindh (Dirpis) has noted around 50 cases of corporal punishment at private schools between September 2018 and August 2019. Of these, the parents had approached the directorate in only five of the cases.

Likewise, around 40 cases of physical punishment at government schools in the Karachi division have been reported. But all of these cases are undocumented. The Directorate of Primary Schools Education; the Directorate of Elementary, Secondary & Higher Secondary Schools and Dirpis don’t have proper records or data on them.

“Corporal punishment is strictly prohibited not only at educational institutions but everywhere else as well,” said Dirpis Secretary Rafia Javed. “Twice a year the directorate issues circulars to all the private schools to ensure the implementation of the relevant laws.”

She said Dirpis checks the records of schools at the time of renewal of their registration. If the directorate finds that a school has been involved in physical punishment, the institution can’t be granted an extension.

She admitted that physical punishment of students has not been eliminated at schools. She said that sometimes teachers resort to dealing with students in a traditional manner, but most of such cases go unreported.

School Education Karachi Director Hamid Karim also expressed the same views, saying that the parents whose children are enrolled at government schools don’t file complaints regarding corporal punishment, except in extreme cases. “We have zero tolerance for corporal punishment at public schools.”

The News also tried to get information on physical punishment of children at madrasas, but no relevant organisation seems to have been able to keep proper records of such cases.

Initiator Human Development Foundation President Rana Asif Habib said incidents of corporal punishment of children at seminaries have been frequently reported in the last one year, but both government and private organisations have failed to maintain proper records on them.

“Many children flee their homes because of being subjected to physical punishment on a daily basis at their schools, madrasas and homes,” he said pointing out recent studies conducted by his foundation. He also held corporal punishment responsible for the increasing number of street children.

The law

The preamble of the Sindh Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act 2016 stresses the necessity of making provisions for the protection of children against corporal punishment at workplaces, in all types of educational and childcare institutions, and in the juvenile justice system.

Section 6(2) of the Act binds all private institutions to devise a complaint system to address corporal punishment. Section 6(3) warrants that every private institution submit a written undertaking at the time of registration swearing they will be responsible for devising a complaint system to entertain complaints of corporal punishment, failing which may result in the cancellation of their registration.

Teacher education

This year a number of videos of corporal punishment at schools went viral on social media. The clips showed that the children were not only harmed physically but also tortured mentally.

“Gone are the days when teachers used to peel the skin off their students at schools and parents stayed silent on the brutality,” said Dr Kamal Haider, faculty of education dean at the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science & Technology.

“It’s beyond logic to educate a kid by breaking his hands, teeth and bones. Such types of punishments can never be accepted. The authorities must implement the laws. Teachers involved in corporal punishment should be dealt with accordingly. There’s also the need for taking tangible measures for teacher education.”

All Sindh Parents Association General Secretary Hamood-ur-Rub said his association doesn’t condone physical punishment at schools. “We oppose each and every form of violence against students at schools. No teacher should be allowed to physically punish or verbally abuse a student.”

He, however, conceded that teachers need to deal with students strictly when they don’t do their homework, skip their classes or don’t follow the school’s discipline, but the teachers should not torture their students physically or mentally. Neither educated nor uneducated parents stand for violence against their children, he said.

“Sometimes children complain to their parents about their teachers being annoyed with them, and the parents without finding out what their children did wrong, try to put all the blame on the teachers. This behaviour of parents is also unacceptable.”

He stressed the need for the authorities to keep a close watch on teachers and school owners to stop physical violence against students. He also underlined the importance of including a chapter on corporal punishment and its consequences in teacher education programmes.

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