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6 January, 2020 11:25:18 AM
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Implement the ban on corporal punishment

Children exposed to corporal punishment tend to solve problems in future life by using violence
SYED MEHDI MOMIN
Implement the ban on corporal punishment

The prohibition of all forms of violence against children is a human rights obligation of all states. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child includes the Right to Protection of children against abuse, which is categorised as an Immediate Right.  Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (commonly abbreviated as the CRC, CROC, or UNCRC) requires States to protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence”. Children in Bangladesh, however, remain subjected to many forms of violence, including corporal punishment in various settings – at home, in al institutions, in workplaces, etc. Some time back The Independent published a picture showing three students, apparently not even in their teens, of a madrasa in Sahariatputr district, with their legs and waists chained to iron chains. This picture indeed told more than a thousand words.
Apparently these students were being punished as they were not attentive to their studies. These barbaric medieval actions were those of their teachers who are supposed to look after their weal and woes. It is easy to imagine what could be going through the tender minds of the students but what is difficult to comprehend is what sort of psychological deviancy prompted these sadists masquerading as teachers.

What is most unfortunate is the fact that while extreme, the situation at this particular madrasa is by no means an isolated one.

A survey conducted by the UNICEF in Bangladesh in 2008 reveals that 91 per cent of children receive physical punishment at schools by their teachers and there is little evidence to suggest that things have improved markedly since then. According to experts common methods of corporal punishment in Bangladeshi al institutes include scolding; placing students in a discomfort position; pulling hairs and cheek; twisting ears, hitting with duster and other objects over head or other parts of the body; striking with stick on palm, back, head and eyes; squeezing a pen/pencil between fingers; pinching, hanging, kicking, preventing students from entering classroom for a while; locking them in toilet or other room and so on.

These punishments have physical as well as long-term psychological impacts which impede , and development of creative thoughts in a child. Research shows corporal punishment creates feelings of humiliation, anxiety and worthlessness among children. It increases a child's vulnerability to depression, addiction to drugs and tendency towards violence. It also has social consequences as violence begets violence. Children exposed to corporal punishment tend to solve problems in future life by using

violence.

Additionally, corporal punishment is unable to stop bad behaviour of difficult children and they are punished repeatedly for the same offence. Dr. Gershoff of Columbia University, USA in his research  found that people who were physically punished as a child were more likely to become depressed, perform poorly at school, have career problems and abuse their own children and spouses, when adults.  There are many studies that say that there are no positive long term effects or even an appropriate short term effect of physical punishment inflicted on children. It is documented that this sort of punishment in fact does more harm and leads to further misbehaviour. Corporal punishment not only harms its victims but society as a whole.

The High Court, back in January 2011 declared all types of corporal punishment in schools `illegal and unconstitutional.' The Court referred to the Government's obligations under national and international law, including Articles 27, 31, 32 and 35 of the country’s Constitution, the Child Rights Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to prohibit, prevent and prosecute such corporal punishment activities.

It is indeed alarming to observe the failure of the concerned authorities to comply with the High Court direction to take action to investigate and prosecute incidents of corporal punishment.  Apparently no step has been taken to ensure that teachers are sensitised to the issue of corporal punishment. All the rhetoric about children’s rights end up being inane platitudes.

A total of 106 countries of the world have already legally banned the practice of corporal punishment in school and in 26 countries corporal punishment is forbidden even at home. Some socio-cultural factors work behind corporal punishment. In our schools, teachers pursuing corporal punishment are not well-trained and well motivated to manage children in a positive manner.

There must be affirmative ways of teaching. Well trained, motivated and dedicated teachers as well as a safe, orderly and conducive environment can ensure teaching and learning. Also, an intensive and loving relationship between teachers and students is necessary. Teachers who are unaware of the right techniques to maintain discipline and practices of learning in the classroom must be trained.

Many alternatives to corporal punishment have proven their worth. Alternatives to physical punishment teach children to be self-disciplined rather than cooperative only because of fear. Alternatives to corporal punishment include emphasising positive behaviours of students, realistic rules consistently enforced, instruction that reaches all students, conferences with students for planning acceptable behaviour, parent/teacher conferences about student behaviour, use of staff such as school psychologists and counsellors, detentions, in-school suspension. There are many ways the teachers could correct their students. If found that a child has breached the school rules they should advise him without using abusive language. If he still continues to do the same fault parents can be summoned and told what is going on. If the child still continues the same way the teachers can reprimand him, by telling what the consequences would be if he doesn’t abide by the school’s code of conduct. If the child does not listen to the advice given to him he can be suspended for a few days. Children do mistakes. The teachers as their guardians and mentors should know to correct them without resorting to violence .

Ironically many Bangladeshi parents believe that their children will be benefited from physical punishment. Also the majority of parents remain silent even after realising the impact of corporal punishment out of fear that complaint against a violent teacher may result in serious retribution for their children.

This writer believes that there is no difference whatsoever between corporal punishment and child abuse and those who think otherwise are only deluding themselves. Discipline and corporal punishment are worlds apart. While discipline is good and helpful, corporal punishment is evil and harmful. Some schoolteachers justify horrific child abuse claiming their acts had been intended to discipline the child and were ‘for the child’s own good.’ Today, many incidents reveal that harsh corporal punishment was being administered by teachers to release their own anger and frustrations, rather than as a measure to discipline students.

However, as said earlier such forms of punishment have the potential to cause extreme mental and physical trauma among students which may end up being counter-productive to the exercise of instilling discipline.

Corporal punishment is repulsive and totally uncivilised behaviour. It doesn’t teach children what’s right from wrong or in any way discipline a child, but promotes violence as the solution to all problems. Parents too have a role to play in discipline by monitoring their children. Love and care is the most important thing in schooldays and students always try to win the attention of their parents and teachers. Adults must take the time to listen to their children and consider their views. Discipline must start early in the home. Parents are expected to set an example to their children.

Children should see school as a positive experience, they should go to school happy and unafraid and come home with the cup of knowledge fuller than when they left in the morning.

There is much that needs to be done and an effective start can be made by enacting a law explicitly banning corporal punishment of children in and outside of schools. Strict penal action would indeed be a deterrent and is needed. However, we cannot only focus on the teachers who use corporal punishment against children. We also need to make sure that al administration enables teachers to develop skills to deal with different situations without resorting to corporal punishment. It is important to have a provision in the suggested law whereby a teacher who is hauled up for repeated offences should lose their job.

The writer is the Senior Assistant Editor of The Independent

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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