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Schools and madrasas should not be ghastly hellholes of torture, fear, and antisocial training camps

School and Madrasah SIR FRANK PETERS :: It’s almost five years since a law banning corporal punishment in schools and madrasas was introduced; yet, we continue to read shocking news reports about horrific beatings of innocent children. What is that saying to the world about Bangladesh?

Take one deplorable incident this week as an example. Nine-year-old Abu Sayeed, a class two student at Nurani Talimul Quaran Hafizia Madrasa at Kamalpur village, was locked in a room allegedly by ‘teaches’ Riazul Islam, Shariful Islam and Rezaul Islam; mercilessly beaten with a stick, and only half-fed during a nightmarish THREE day period. The ‘teachers’ accused the nine-year-old of stealing money.

How low has humanity sunk that three ‘grown-ups’ took turns to visit and inflict pain on the vulnerable defenseless little child?

How would you feel if it were your child? How would you feel if it were you?

Imagine momentarily if you were wearing Abu’s unbranded cheap flip-flops and how you would have felt, as the tears trickled down your face and your pitiful cries for help – to both Allah and man – went unheeded. Alone at the prey and mercy of three fully-grown mind-warped bullies and not even your little playmate buddies to visit, comfort and console you.

The pain from Abu’s beatings not only would have confirmed to him there’s much ugliness and cruelty in the world, but also served to distract his confused developing mind from his thoughts of vulnerability, helplessness, and how the law delivered by Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif on January 13, 2011, gave him no protection. Was it because he came from a poor family and didn’t attend a private school in Gulshan or Dhanmondi? Or had society and the education system totally abandoned him?

(Due credit must be given to the police officers at Dinajpur Kotwali Police Station who acted swiftly in detaining the culprits.)

When an adult beats a child, which of the two is morally and lawfully wrong? Which one is out of control? At what point, when hitting a child, does it become abuse? How does society gain when a child is beaten?

You don’t need to deliberate on those too much; the answer is simple. NOTHING good comes from corporal punishment, never has, never will and there are tons of reports to support that fact. It’s impossible to beat-in respect or fashion a child into becoming a better citizen. Only when you give respect, do you gain respect and that is in direct proportion to that given. Respect can never be beaten-in.

If it’s true, as the adage claims, that children are the future of a nation… the uncut diamonds… the jewels in the crown… it makes more sense to view them as valuable assets and give them proper guidance, encouragement and protection. It’s a fact of life that people get older, not younger and one day – individually or collectively – we are sure to be dependent upon the produce from the seeds we’ve sown. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’ (Bible).

How could beating children like Abu Sayeed until he’s black and blue advance him or society? There are some people who shield their ignorance behind religious passages like ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ smugly proclaiming the good book isn’t wrong – and they’re right: the book isn’t wrong, but the interpretation is!

In Hebrew the word “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, ‘thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.’ The shepherd’s rod/staff was/is used to ENCOURAGE, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to beat, hurt or damage. Translated correctly it would read, ‘spare good GUIDANCE and spoil the child’.

The real damage of corporal punishment is not necessarily in the initial pain of the unlawful beating, but in its long-term mental after-effects that can trigger untold ill effects and manifest in muggings, beatings, destruction of private and public property, wife-beatings, murders and a loveless, despising, and hateful attitude to all. Why should it be any other way?

Bangladeshi Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) – Asia’s first Nobel Laureate in literature and a pioneer educationist of the 19th century ­– saw education to be a social process concerned with the development of an individual for participation in society both physically and mentally. He believed each child has a unique talent and the role of true education is to explore and promote that innate power within it. He was repulsed by corporal punishment and detested those responsible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports corporal punishment “kills thousands of children each year, and handicaps many more.”

Schools should not be horrific hellholes of fear where the once-in-a-lifetime gift of youth, fun and joy are beaten out; and hatred, anger, despises for society, and revenge are beaten-in.

Where there’s corporal punishment there’s ALWAYS the possibility the next Abu Sayeed could be your child; a relative, or a child you know. Don’t let that happen. Speak out now – prevention is better than cure. Be the voice of the voiceless, especially where your family members are concerned.

It’s relatively easy. The parents of one boy told me a ‘teacher’ had beaten their son. The boy’s father and uncle visited the school and spoke to him. There was no physical violence or even loud talk exchanged, but the ‘never do it again’ facial look left a lasting impression. He was never beaten again.

Rajowl Karim (one of the two boys who triggered the launch of my anti corporal punishment campaign five years ago) was once told to go to the front of the class to receive corporal punishment, but he planted his size-8 heels on the floor and refused! The spirited little kid told the ‘teacher’ corporal punishment in schools was against the law and no corporal punishment was given to him then or since! Sometimes standing up for your rights is all that’s necessary. And if you don’t, who will?

Resolving the problem could be as easy as telling the Headmaster and teachers you do not want your child to be given corporal punishment and surely that’s not asking too much of you? Conversely, if you are happy with the progress your child is making at school, do take the time to write, phone, email or visit the school and thank those responsible.

(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.)

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