There are at least two questions without answers in the world today: how long is a piece of string and when will hideous corporal punishment to children end?
The piece of string is harmless enough, but the question about corporal punishment mirrors a society that is still crude, uncivilised and says nothing good, nothing decent, nothing honourable or respectable about the perpetrators - parent or teacher.
Take for example a horrific incident that occurred recently at a convent school in Fafamau city near Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. The Headmaster ruthlessly beat students with a thick cane until it broke. A video shows the poor hapless students cowering, in the fetus position making themselves small and less vulnerable to the beatings and trying to protect their heads against the fierce blows as they screamed in agony, and pleading with God to make him stop.
Tragically, this case is not unique. Similar incidents occur all too frequently all over the country, evil is without borders, but only a few ever get reported.
Teacher Ashish Mani Tiwari, who attempted to stop the shameless cruel suffering, uploaded the video to YouTube. Instead of being awarded a medal by the school, parents and local authorities for doing what's right, decent and proper, Ashish was sacked!
A mother of one of the victim students even lodged a complaint against the school, but was forced to withdraw it after "pressure" from local authorities, the police, and the school.
Was the head teacher arrested by the police or sacked for his cruelty to the children by the Education Department despite the damning pictorial evidence. Of course, not!
The law is said to be on the side of children. People like Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina continuously tell us that, hand on heart, and I'm sure she means it, if it's not invoked robustly, it's a waste of rhetoric, good ink, and the paper on which it's written.
When Justice Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif made their historic ruling in Bangladesh in 2011, they declared corporal punishment to be: 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom'." Surely, every 'allegedly educated' Headmaster, at least, would understand that and comply.
Corporal punishment to children in schools is banned for the right reasons, but the power of the taka still reigns supreme and gets despicable situations swept under the carpet irrespective of the damage caused.
That leaves the child feeling powerless, helpless, and in a 'there's nothing I can do' but to accept his bond of slavery to the school where government-paid thugs rule.
It came to light recently that an 8th-grade student in Chittagong may lose an eye after he was struck by a duster thrown by teacher Arif Billah at the port city's BEPZA Public School and College. The chances of the pupil regaining sight in the injured eye are extremely low.
Billah was arrested and taken into custody. I doubt, however, if he deliberately threw the blackboard duster at the pupil with the intent of causing the eye injury. I doubt if a 'teacher' breaks a child's leg, his fingers, his arms, his bones, or means to inflict permanent mental or physical injury or disability on the child deliberately unless he/she is of a deranged mind.
But while corporal punishment is permitted, anything can happen, anything can go wrong. As human beings, we say things (even to our loved ones) we don't mean and later regret. Teachers also have pent-up frustrations they don't mean to unleash on children, but they do.
We do not live in a Walt Disney-created world where everything is colourful, birds twitter and merrily dance and sing on the telephone lines, colourful rainbows galore, and smiles greet us that are warm enough to boil eggs. We don't hop-skip-and-jump our way through life as we sing happy melodies… "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go (can you hear the melodic flutes?)".
The reality in life isn't like that. We are human beings, frail, insecure and sometimes even the slightest imbalance to our personal lives can get situations out of all proportions and cause enormous upset to our inner being… an argument with our wife/girlfriend/son/daughter/neighbour/boss (or whoever), can trigger upset and twist our mood that reflects in our attitude.
'Teachers' are no different. They have their problems, their moods, their human frailties, worries, an argumentative or nagging wife/husband and financial problems like everyone else. The difference being, many 'teachers' release their anger and frustrations through beating children as their therapy (saves 500-taka a visit to a psychiatrist) … and make them their 'whipping boys'.
Worse, some then attempt to justify their dastardly ill doings, ignorance, and shortcomings by labelling it 'discipline', as if he were doing the child (and his family) a favour.
Unfortunately, (BIG sigh) many of the pupil's parents are so ignorant and trusting (amounts to the same), not only do they permit the cruelty, but they encourage it, they're brain-washed into believing the 'teachers' to be more educated and know more about what's good for their child than they.
You often hear people say they've had 20/30/40 years of teaching experience and that's generally interpreted to mean they've accumulated a lot of knowledge during those years, but that may not be the case at all.
A person who has been doing a job for a short time - even a week - could learn the basics in that time and then repeat what was learned over… and over… and over again, making no advancement whatsoever. When you learn to boil an egg, can you honestly claim you've had 20 years' experience in boiling eggs or is it a case you've learned to boil the egg in a few minutes and you've simply been repeating the exercise over 20 years?
Some 'teachers' are like that. They may have been employed by the school for 20 years or more (God only knows how they got the job), but there's been no advancement to their own individual learning knowledge or to their teaching method. Simply, they're egg boilers.
A slap in the face is considered to be one of the biggest insults one human being can give another, but a school 'teacher' this week has taken it to a new low level. The incident occurred in Haryana's Rewari district. The ruthless 'teacher' didn't use his hand, but a shoe! Not once, but several times. The students recorded the incident on their phones.
Imagine sending your child in his smartly-dressed starched uniform to an expensive, exclusive top-level school, expecting the school to do all that's right in helping to develop your loved one, only to have him slapped in the face with a shoe.
It stands to commonsense just from the above that corporal punishment must be stopped and the 'bad apples' in the teaching fraternity who disagree must be kicked out. Parents, who send their children to a school or madrasah that practises corporal punishment without offering the children support or protection, fail to be good parents.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a foreign friend of Bangladesh.
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