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Rabindranath Tagore was repulsed by corporal punishment to children

The creation of a better, respectful, caring, and loving Bangladeshi society begins by eliminating corporal punishment. That is an irrefutable fact

SIR FRANK PETERS :: While I do not condole vigilante justice, I must admit to enjoying a modicum of satisfaction recently when I learned a schoolteacher had his bike set ablaze by a group of vigilante parents for brutalizing their children.

My gratification did not germinate from the violence aspect of what occurred or in the willful damage caused, far from it, but in the smug pleasure one occasionally gets to enjoy from saying ‘I told you so’.

Let’s recap (1)… on March 28 this year angry parents beat-up and seriously injured Chandipur High School Headmaster Nazrul Islam. His assistant teacher Mohammad Ali had caned their children for refusing to pay picnic fees!

Some of the eighth graders had decided to skip the school picnic on offer and refused to contribute Taka 100. This outraged the assistant teacher, who was in charge of collecting the money, and triggered a physical beatings spree during which he caned 42 students and critically injured 15.

Hearing the news, enraged parents ran to the school in search of the law-breaking wrongdoer who wisely had locked himself inside a room for his own safety. The agitated parents vented their anger by setting fire to his motorcycle. Headmaster Nazrul Islam attempted to calm the outraged guardians but was beaten-up and lost a couple of teeth in the process.

This is EXACTLY the kind of ‘I told you so’ incident I predicted would happen after High Court Divisional bench Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladeshi schools and madrassas on January 13, 2011.

Why? – As more and more parents become aware the law is on their side, and are educated to the facts that corporal punishment is vile, evil, serves no useful purpose, damages their children for life, and is used by the most ignorant of brainless ‘teachers’ (who should not be in the profession) their toleration level of corporal punishment diminishes.

The statement that corporal punishment has been in the school system for centuries is true; that is hasn’t done any harm is not. There is already mountain-high evidence confirming its lethal dangers, but every year universities, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical science and such spend extensive time and money exploring to see if theirs peers got it right. Of the thousands of studies, there’s NEVER been a single result favouring corporal punishment.

Despite this overwhelming evidence, there will be the head-in-the-sand hardliners who’ll dig their heels in, stand firm, and shield their ignorance behind religious passages like ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ smugly proclaiming the good book isn’t wrong – and they’re right: the book isn’t wrong, but the interpretation is!

In Hebrew the word “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, ‘thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.’ The shepherd’s rod/staff was/is used to ENCOURAGE, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to beat, hurt or damage. Translated correctly it would read, ‘spare good GUIDANCE and spoil the child’.

There are no two individuals in the world who think exactly the same. Identical twins may look like photocopies of each other (apart from their finger, ear, and foot prints) but their thoughts are distinctly unique. While one child might burst into tears at being called an unpleasant name, another might shrug the shoulders and laugh it off.

Similarly, corporal punishment might seem to have little to no effect on one child, while in another it might trigger a totally negative mind-altering, character changing experience that later could manifest in the form of depression, alcohol and substance abuse. Why take the chance?

The real damage of corporal punishment is not necessarily in the initial pain of the unlawful beating, but in its long-term after-effects. Each beating causes a myriad of conflicting, confusing, and upsetting feelings to explode in the child’s developing brain: injustice, humiliation, anger, distress, revenge, resentfulness, insecurity, abandonment that triggers low self-esteem and mood swings… the list goes on ad nausea.

It is not possible for children to love, respect, and become good citizens in a social system that abuses them.

Corporal punishment reinforces physical aggression as an acceptable and effective means of eliminating unwanted behavior in our society. Corporal punishment is to society what arsenic is to Bangladeshi village drinking water. The ill effects are not detectable overnight, but takes years for the poison to amass and take effect.  

Bangladeshi Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) – Asia’s first Nobel Laureate in literature and a pioneer educationist of the 19th century ­– saw education to be a social process concerned with the development of an individual for participation in society both physically and mentally. Rabindranath Tagore was repulsed by corporal punishment to children. He believed each child has a unique talent and the role of true education is to explore and promote that innate power within it. He was repulsed by corporal punishment and detested those responsible.

Let’s recap (2)… A ten-year-old boy was so badly beaten by a ‘teacher’ in Azad Nagar; he was pronounced dead when he arrived at a nearby nursing home for treatment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports corporal punishment “kills thousands of children each year, and handicaps many more.”

Where there’s corporal punishment there’s ALWAYS the possibility the next fatal victim could be your child; a relative, or a child you know.

So what can be done?  – The parents of one boy told me a ‘teacher’ beat their son. The boy’s father and uncle duly visited the school and spoke to the teacher. There was no physical violence or even loud talk, but the ‘never do it again’ facial expressions said it all. He was never beaten again.

Rajowl Karim (one of the two boys who triggered the launch of my anti corporal punishment campaign five years ago) and a star pupil of the Romoni Kumar Pait High School in Haydarabad, Gazipur, was once told to go to the front of the class to receive corporal punishment, but he planted his size-8 heels on the floor and refused!

The spirited little kid told the ‘teacher’ corporal punishment in schools was against the law (not knowing if these were to be his last words on earth!). No corporal punishment was given to him then or since! Sometimes standing up for your rights is all that’s necessary. And if you don’t, who will?

Resolving the problem could be as easy as visiting the school and speaking to the Headmaster and teachers, telling them you do not want your child to be given corporal punishment.

Schools should not be horrific hellholes of fear where the once-in-a-lifetime gift of youth, fun and joy are beaten out; and hatred, anger, despises for society, and revenge are beaten-in.

If children are the future of Bangladesh, it doesn’t make sense to pulverize them into human vegetables.

The creation of a better, respectful, caring and loving Bangladeshi society begins by eliminating corporal punishment. That is an irrefutable fact.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, human rights activist, and a respected foreign friend of Bangladesh.)

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