Sir Frank Peters: One bright spark once said: “truth is stranger than fiction”. I think it was Mark Twain who uttered the immortal words, but I personally didn’t hear him say them, so I can’t be sure. But whoever said them knew what he was talking about.
Take for example a recent incident at a school in Gangaprasad Primary School in Zajira, nearly 100 kilometres south of Dhaka. This is one you might find incredibly hard to believe. Then again, considering the history of corporal punishment in schools throughout Bangladesh, it might not be so difficult.
If Ripley produced a ‘Believe It Or Not’ series devoted exclusively to corporal punishment in schools, this one would definitely qualify.
But before coming to it, let us remind ourselves of some other ‘Believe It Or Not’ and ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ qualifiers.
For example, the 'hellish nightmare' that unfolded at the Talimul Quran Mahila Madrasa in Kadamtali where 14 young girls were literally branded for life with a red-hot cooking spatula by their 'teacher' to demonstrate her concept of what hell would be like! The smell of burning flesh may have since left the madrasa building by now, but not the horrific memories in the minds of the teenagers who are scarred physically and mentally for life. Are these teen girls feeling love and respect for the ‘teacher’, school, system, and those who allowed it to happen? Let your own common sense answer that.
Newspaper readers were aghast and mortified when on the front page of their friendly daily they saw staring back at them a photograph of three Allah-loving little boys in chains at the Abdul Aziz Noorani Hafizia Madrasa in Scygaon village in Shariatpur district. Their ‘crime’? – Being inattentive at their studies. While it is obvious to all and sundry that this inhuman, barbaric treatment does not enhance the image of an alleged civilised Bangladesh, one can’t help but wonder what else might be happening at that madrasa.
And what about the 'teacher' at a Sunamganj school who sent a pupil to a local barber to collect all his used razor blades and then forced her Class V students to cut their hands and legs with used razor blades until they bled for not doing their homework!
More recently a class V student was ordered by the hostel warden of Shantiniketan's Patha Bhavan School to lick her urine as punishment for bed-wetting.
There’s been many more similar incidents, most are hushed-up and don’t make the papers, but the latest is a real mind boggler and relates to the Gangaprasad Primary School in Zajira, previously mentioned.
School ‘teacher’ Shahnaz Parvin was found guilty of forcing 28 students of grade IV to drink sewer water for not being able to deliver lessons in her class! Not surprisingly, several students fell ill after drinking the poisonous liquid.
The school authorities ordered an investigation after parents took to the school field demanding justice and teacher’ Shahnaz Parvin was suspended. It boggles the mind how she came up with the idea in the first place, perhaps to drag Bangladesh education to sewer level.
Bangladesh has made some baby steps forward since noble Supreme Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif, banned the outrageous practice and 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’.”
This ruling, no doubt, engineered change for the better, but as evidenced in previous paragraphs there are still many ‘teachers’ and headmasters who don’t comply.
The recent sewer water incident highlights the danger that permeates the air menacingly in every classroom, threatening a child’s health – both mental and physical.
Corporal punishment in the classroom makes sense only to the totally ignorant, mentally disturbed or to masochists.
There isn’t a shred of evidence in support of corporal punishment. Even religious bodies have carried out independent extensive research hoping to support their misconduct and misdeeds, but miserably failed.
On the other hand it is now bordering on being criminal the amount of reports and books that have been published protesting the horrific practice because they’re decreasing the tree population and threatening the environment!
All the reports, without exception, contain thoroughly researched and irrefutable evidence that conclusively prove the practice is harmful and dangerous to the individual and society at large.
It’s been proven over and over and over again that corporal punishment serves no useful purpose whatsoever and doesn’t aid in raising a child’s development or help to make them better citizens. It’s impossible to beat-in love and respect.
In another time, corporal punishment would be declared a poison – the formalin of the school system – by the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Education; and appropriate steps taken to eradicate it speedily.
Parents who claim to love their children and send them to schools knowing them to be corporal punishment hellholes are hypocrites, ignorant, or both. And it wouldn’t surprise me if their children tell them so years later.
There are no excuses for corporal punishment. There are no redeeming factors. Facts are facts that cannot be altered. Corporal punishment is evil and wrong.
How could hitting children by hand, cane, strap, or other objects, kicking, shaking or throwing them against the wall, scratching, pinching, biting or pulling their hair, forcing them to stay in uncomfortable positions be right?
Or tying them up with ropes, chains or tape, burning, scalding or forcing them to wash their tongues with soap, getting them to drink sewer water, cut themselves with old rusted razor blades, brand them for life with scorching hot spatulas or binding them in chains, to name a few?
Remember what the learned justices said? “Corporal punishment is: ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.”
It is up to parents to protect their children from the poison of corporal punishment and prevent it from happening by writing a note, phoning, or visiting the school and making it known to the teachers and headmaster they do not want their children subjected to the toxin, but that applies only to parents who love their children.
Corporal punishment would not exist in schools if parents objected.
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian and human rights activist)
risingbd/Dhaka/Sep 11, 2017/Sir Frank Peters/Nasim