Thursday, June 27, 2019 | ePaper

No justification of corporal punishment

Children are entitled to dignity and respect

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Sir Frank Peters :
A schoolteacher in Tanzania has been sentenced to death for causing the death of a schoolpupil through "malicious and zealous" use of corporal punishment.
High Court Judge Lameck Mlacha convicted Respicius Patrick Mutazangira (51), a teacher at Kibeta Primary School in Bukobal, Tanzania, of murdering the Sperius Eradius (14), and sentenced him to death by hanging.
Sperius was beaten with firewood for three hours and stabbed with a compass, in an attempt to get him to confess to stealing a colleague's handbag. He died from 'neurogenic shock', which is typically caused by traumatic brain or spine injuries, the court heard.
The case has sparked outrage and reignited the debate on corporal punishment in schools in Tanzania.
Delivering his ruling, Judge Lameck Mlacha found Mutazangira "guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of voluntary homicide" and sentenced him to death.
The judge added that the teacher had acted maliciously when he repeatedly hit the child with a blunt object, the BBC reports.
In Bangladesh there have been horrifically sad cases of Allah-loving children been chained to planks of wood, locked in dark rooms and not given any food or water for days. There have been many cases of children who had their jaws broken... their legs broken... their fingers broken... children losing their eyesight and loss of hearing.
In some rare cases, their willingness to live was zapped from their tender souls and they committed suicide to escape.
Can it happen in Bangladesh: Make no mistake, what happened to young Sperius in Tanzania, can happen anywhere and possibly to your child, a relative, neighbour or friend. Ignorance lacks empathy and compassion. Where there's ignorance, there will always be violence; it just makes matters worse when there are people openly teaching it in the classrooms.
In an environment where corporal punishment is practised, only Allah knows what evil form it will take or what amount of damage it will do. We must never forget the 12 Allah-loving young girls who were scarred for life after a demented schoolteacher took a red-hot cooking spatula to their legs at the Talimul Quran Mahila Madrasa, to demonstrate her concept of hell.
There's another incident where the Deputy Principal of St. Peter's Kandara Boys' High School accused an 18-year-old of being noisy and gave him four strokes of the cane on his buttocks. He had to have one of his testicles removed.
There are many such cases, some even more ugly than those, which are never reported. Loss of, or damage to, eyesight... perforated eardrums... broken fingers, hands, arms & legs, wounds, scars, dislocated shoulders, dislocated collarbones, twisted spines and perforated eardrums, just to mention a few serve many pupils physical and mental reminders of how horrific ignorant evil 'teachers' can be, if corporal punishment is allowed.
No doubt many of the cruel evil acts were not intended to have such horrific results, but the 'teachers' were caught-up in the moment, carried away, and lost control of their senses.
Cruelty not intended: Corporal punishment can and does cause pain, suffering and tears at one end of the scale right up to suicide and silence at the other, with thousands of levels of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in between.
It is said there are many problems in the Bangladesh education system and no doubt the Minister of Education, Dr. Dipu Moni, is looking into them. Irrespective of what these problems are, however, there is absolutely No justification whatsoever for including corporal punishment in the sordid unpalatable mix. It is never, never; never right to hit a child.
On January 13, 2011, a law was introduced to protect what is commonly referred to as 'the supreme assets of Bangladesh' - the children.
High Court Divisional Bench comprising of Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrasah declaring it to be: "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom".
There's been a lot of talk over the years erroneously equating corporal punishment to discipline and reducing the horrific sordid act, as if comparing Pepsi to Coca-Cola.  Corporal punishment isn't even a distant relative.
That great Bangladeshi and illustrious intellectual Rabindranath Tagore, who abhorred corporal punishment in all settings, said: "To discipline means to teach, not to punish". How many Bangladeshi 'teachers' and Imams know this or pay heed?
What ever became of virtues like love and compassion that God gave to all at birth? Surely being able to tell the difference between right and wrong is natural. There's no need or justification to debate corporal punishment. It can't be any more wrong than the wrong that it is.
Remember, other Bangladeshi intellectuals, Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hassan Arif described corporal punishment in schools and madrassahs as: "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom".
Just recently, while inaugurating the National Primary Education Week 2019, our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina found a strong resonant voice within her spiritual self and firmly called upon all "not to exert additional pressure on the tender-hearted children for studying instead of giving them education with joy".
The PM went on to say: "Additional pressure shouldn't be put on tender-hearted children for studying. It should be taken care by all that the children can get education amid cheerfulness and play and without having fear."
It is impossible for cheerfulness and play to coexist alongside corporal punishment. Rid the classrooms of corporal punishment and the joy of learning begins.
It will also come as no surprise to the internationally-celebrated Prime Minister and good mother that their little bodies are tender, too, and not made - mentally or physically - to withstand the physical cruelty of corporal punishment by brutish ignorant law-breaking  'teachers' and Imams.
If we are to believe that children are human. We must also accept they have feelings similar to our own. What adult do you know who welcomes being slapped in the face with a shoe; kicked, hair-pulled, ears-twisted, beaten across the head with a metal scale or other ways abused?
It is wrong so many children have suffered so cruelly from the ignorance of corporal punishment over the decades and for many, physically and mentally, to carry scars throughout their life.
It is wrong that children still suffer from the ignorance of some 'teachers' and Imams. Just by addressing this one issue alone with sincerity will help build a society in Bangladesh that will make everyone proud and productive.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a royal goodwill ambassador, a foreign non-political friend of Bangladesh. He has been honoured by Bangladesh Freedom Fighters. Three Bangladeshi babies have been named 'Frank Peters' in his honour.)

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