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Thursday July 25, 2024

Banning the cane

By Editorial Board
May 30, 2023

The Islamabad Capital Territory has put down the rules for its Act on prohibiting corporal punishment for children at schools, including all educational institutions and has, in a major ceremony, announced that from now on children would be educated in a conducive and harmonious environment. The ceremony was a high-powered one, with former ministers and celebrities such as Shehzad Roy among those speaking at it. Around the world 62 states have so far universalized the prohibition of corporal punishment including at home. Corporal punishment outside of the home is prohibited by 135 states. Pakistan is one of the dwindling number of countries which have not totally banned corporal punishment at schools. The country also allows derogatory punishments at these institutions and, as a result, there have been cases in which children have been badly injured or in the very worst cases, even killed. It is imperative that we ban corporal punishment and lay out a new pedagogy for teaching that recognizes the rights of the child as laid down in international conventions that Pakistan has signed.

It should also be noted that we need similar rules across the country. Corporal punishment has been banned in Sindh since 2017. In Punjab, in December 2022 then chief minister Pervaiz Elahi had agreed that an act should be passed after being spoken to by Malala Yousafzai and promised that this would happen within the month. It did not happen. And of course we know the fate of the Elahi government in the weeks and months that followed. There is also a basic principle to the entire problem. In the first place, teacher training is essential so that they can learn to teach and where necessary, discipline children in a manner that does not cause them any harm or hurt them, in any way. Corporal punishment obviously needs to be banned. Unfortunately, however, in our schools and in many households, it is the only way parents and teachers know how to discipline or rebuke children for unfavourable behaviour. It has been more than 30 years since Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). There has to be a change in the way in which we think and the way in which we act. First of all, the Child Protection Act that we have in our statute books needs to be implemented with more urgency and the Child Protection Bureaus, which exist in at least some of our provinces trained to carry out their work in a cohesive manner. We cannot have children being beaten up simply because they do not turn to their school books. This is all the more true given the way that children are taught at schools. There are other methods used all over the world which work much better and ensure the child is protected at all costs. This is something we need to bring into play in our country and we must hope that the implementation of the rules for the Islamabad Capital Territory leads to more action across the rest of the country to keep children safe in their educational institutions and finally put an end to corporal punishment.