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If the children are the future of Bangladesh, why damage them?

SIR FRANK PETERS :: THERE is a large family of well-meaning clichés roaming free throughout Bangladesh espousing the need to protect children in different ways.

“The children are our future”, they scream loudly, but largely they’re all ignored. Children’s rights are still an illusion.

Take corporal punishment for example. On January 13, 2011, Bangladesh High Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed the barbaric evil practice. The wise Bangladeshi patriots declared it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.

That’s almost been four years ago, but it still continues in some ‘torture chamber’ classrooms throughout Bangladesh, sometimes with the most shameful, horrific results.

Prior to January 13, 2011, Head Masters and teachers alike were endearingly held to the bosom of the nation. They were highly respected, admired, and seen by most people in the community to be pillars of society and acting in the best interests of the children, society and nation.

Slapping, kicking and beating a child until he or she became black and blue or until they became unconscious were common practice. It’s a known ‘fact’ the child ALWAYS deserved it (irrespective of the evidence to the contrary) and the ‘teacher’ was always right and acting in their best interest.

The fact these ‘teachers’ unleashed their pent-up frustrations and gave way to their sadistic tendencies was of no consequence or reason for remorse. After all ‘teachers’ were known not to be well paid and what harm is there having a bit of fun at the child’s mental and physical expense as a perk of the job?

Besides there were probably thousands of more children being manufactured while this brutality was going on. So, what’s one less here and there? Venting one’s anger and shortcomings inhumanely was of therapeutic value – a bonus of the job… it kept them from going totally insane.

The name given to this inhumane cruelty is ‘discipline’ – one of the most respected words in the dictionary – a top-shelf word.

Discipline, however, isn’t even a distant cousin to corporal punishment – it wouldn’t give it the time of day if they met, but ‘child abuse’ is a family relative – same DNA, in fact.

Sadly, some children, beaten in the classroom by their ‘teacher’, went home and complained to their parents of the pain, humiliation and brutality they had suffered, only to be told by them that they must have deserved it… that discipline never did anyone any harm… that it didn’t do them any harm… that the teacher had acted in their best interests! These parents are more to be pitied than laughed at, but even unblemished ignorance deserves admiration for its perfection.

The decree banning corporal punishment in the schools by Justices Ali and Arif on January 13, 2011 changed all that… but did it? It clearly defined the right from wrong and arrived as a blessing to most compassionate, professional teachers, but as a curse to many of the unqualified, brown-envelope blow-ins.

“Where’s the fun to be had in teaching if we can’t beat the little brats mercilessly,” they might have protested, while the professional child-caring teacher welcomed the law… but remained quiet to the acts of cruelty they regularly witnessed. Whistle-blowers among the teaching fraternity are a rare breed.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Irish statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Since 2011, there have been a number of horrific classroom incidents that have brought great shame to the teaching profession.

A ‘teacher’ at Srijani Bidyaniketan, run by Patuakhali University of Science and Technology, ordered the students to stand up and sit down while holding their ears as punishment for making noise during recess. The Dean, AKM Mostafa Zaman, then arrived on the scene, guns blazing, so to speak, but not to admonish the ‘teacher’ for her misbehaviour and law-breaking act.

No, he confined the hapless pupils to a room in an under-construction building, tied their hands with rope and put 10 house bricks on the head of each. Then beat them with sticks until they fell sick.

Then there was that ‘hellish nightmare’ 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!

And what about the ‘teacher’ at a Sunamganj school who forced students of Class V to cut their hands and legs with used razor blades until they bled, as punishment for not doing their homework?

And more recently… Bristi Das. She died 13-days after an alleged cruel beating by her private tutor in Boalkhali upazila of Chittagong. Her crime? – Failing to answer some questions correctly.

Corporal punishment is an act of stupidity, ignorance, and child abuse, an act against humanity and a criminal offense. Thank God, however, not all teachers are the same (applause, applause)… some children have nothing to fear.

In a new book, renowned Indian lawyer Parminder Singh Bhullar writes:

“ Research has shown that corporal punishment leads to adverse effect on physical, psychological and academic well-being of the children. It is detrimental to the sense of purpose of the children.

“There is no place for corporal punishment in the education system. It neither motivates nor inspires confidence in children.”

A teacher (or parent) who beats a child is not doing the child or society any favours whatsoever, but causing extensive harm to both.

Wake-up Bangladesh! Modern Bangladesh needs discipline, not inhumane cruelty and abuse. If the children are the future of Bangladesh, why damage them?

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, a royal Goodwill Ambassador, and a loyal foreign friend of Bangladesh.)

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