Sir Frank Peters: Almost nine years ago corporal punishment to children in schools and madrasahs was outlawed in Bangladesh.
But you would be forgiven for not noticing. Sadly, the ‘Business as Usual’ sign is still in evidence at many schools and madrasahs. The perpetrators know about the noble and honourable work of High Court Justices Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan who introduced the historic ban on January 13, 2011, but do they care? Apparently, not.
Sadly, there are many people of different affiliations in Bangladesh (political and otherwise) who believe they’re exceptions to the rules that govern the rest of us and have power that places them above the law.
At no time, however, should schools be part of that despicable mix. Schools should be sanctified establishments – the custodians and conduits of knowledge and truth. Places where whatever you see and hear is honourable and can be trusted without question. Even a whiff of the shameful ugliness, wrongdoings, corruption and skullduggery in the world outside should never permeate its hallowed borders.
In an ideal society, schools and teachers are sacred and should be treated and respected as such. Schools are the most important playgrounds and learning arenas a child could ever hope to attend. They not only teach the vital and necessary academic concepts and skills every child needs to know to help reach their fullest possible development for living morally, creatively, and productively in a democratic society, but equally important, they provide pupils the opportunity to interact with other students socially, academically, and emotionally.
The foundation of any nation is its education system. Without a solid foundation it’s like building the most beautiful looking monolithic sand castles on the beach or carving artistic masterpieces in ice. They eventually decline beyond recovery.
It stands to commonsense (which is not as common as the adage suggests) you reap what you sow. You cannot expect to plant carrots and harvest turnips.
It’s highly unlikely that a struggling Bangladeshi farmer who’s performed the backbreaking work of preparing his paddy field and planted rice seedlings to help feed his impoverished family, to return some weeks later with a bamboo cane; walk through the field and trample upon the ground he toiled and sweated to prepare; swishing, swashing, and recklessly beating the developing young plants as he walks. Yet similar despicable and senseless acts are performed on children in schools and madrasahs.
You do not need to be a scientist or have the intelligence of someone like Albert Einstein to figure out that corporal punishment could not be of benefit. Unfortunately, there are many ‘teachers’ who would disagree with the mastermind thinking of Justice Imman Ali and Justice Sheikh Hassan.
Corporal punishment has been part of their classroom ‘discipline’ weaponry for years. It’s said you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but how educated or intelligent does a person need to be to follow a simple directive from the highest court in the land that reduced all the necessary thinking to a mere NO?
The teaching of a child is an honour bestowed upon all the participants involved. Their input determines the outcome of the adult the child will eventually become. That could be the next Bangabandhu, Sheikh Hasina, trillionaire Dr. Moosa Bin Shamsher, Musa Ibrahim or some other Bangladeshi iconic figure.
Momentarily, imagine how it would feel to be a member of the team who helped create one of the world’s greatest inventions, or won a Nobel Prizes? That’d really be something to tell the grandchildren.
In the conveyor process from kindergarten to graduation, each step along the way requires skilled input, as would a garment in a garments factory.
Violence, in any form, is never part of anything that’s good and wholesome. Violence is perpetrated, tolerated and condoned only in an ignorant, uncivilized society and most definitely should never be taught within the hallowed grounds of a school.
Corporal punishment can be an horrific traumatic experience for any child. The fact that an adult perpetrates the crime only deepens the severity of the injury and suffering. Corporal punishment is an amalgam of stupidity, ignorance, and child abuse and is clearly cruel and inhumane.
Lies injure and hurt, but corporal punishment destroys the love and trust between parent and child, teacher and pupil, and creates distrust and distain for the society that permitted it.
Thousands of research studies throughout the world have proved beyond doubt corporal punishment to be what it is: ineffective, immoral, humiliating. The American Academy of Pediatricians aggressively warns that hitting children is one of several adverse childhood experiences, adding to the already recognized ACEs of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Prof Alf Nicholson, Professor of Paediatrics and Departmental Head at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland agrees.
Writing in the latest issue of the Irish Medical Journal (IMJ), Prof Nicholson said that international evidence showed that, for both men and women, harsh physical punishment in childhood (including pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting) was associated with antisocial behaviours in adulthood.
The consultant paediatrician, who is also the National Clinical Lead for Paediatrics for the National Clinical Programme, also said slapping was associated with increased aggression in both pre-school and school-aged children, an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognition problems and more oppositional and defiant behaviour in the children.
Prof Nicholson said teachers; parents and adults caring for children should use “healthy forms of discipline” such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviours and should always strive to redirect and set future expectations in the child.
“They should NEVER use corporal punishment for poor behavior, nor should they use verbal abuse or humiliation.
“Both have well recognized long-term deleterious effects on the child. Corporal punishment is not necessary, quite ineffective, and has long-lasting damaging effects,” he said.
No doubt many ‘teachers’ upon retiring will look back with remorse and weep with sorrow and shame when they think about the number of children they tortured, traumatized, and perhaps damaged for life through their use of corporal punishment, but by then it's too late.
It would be of incalculable benefit to children and society alike, however, if they were to bring forward their soul-searching mea culpa epiphany, change their ways, and minimize the horrific damage presently being done now.
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a royal goodwill ambassador and humanitarian. In recognition of his campaigned to outlaw corporal punishment in Bangladesh, three families have shown their appreciation by naming three boys ‘Frank Peters’ in his honour.)
risingbd/Dhaka/Aug 19, 2019/Sir Frank Peters/Nasim