Education Opinion

Corporal punishment: despicable nuisance

Photo by Saleem Shaikh

In Pakistan, corporal punishment is still practiced in educational institutions – formal and informal –presumably for correcting the child’s behaviour, making him/her disciplined or facilitating his or her learning process. But, several studies on schoolchildren psychology and their mental growth have indicated the despicable nuisance has rather adverse effects on overall personality growth of the child. It breaches the child’s self-respect, self-dignity and mental as well as physical integrity.

Photo by Saleem Shaikh

It is not only exercised in educational institutions, but also widely used in homes to discipline children. Studies of the Save the Children and UNICEF have found out that 43 types of punishments are used in schools and 28 in homes in Pakistan. The most common punishments in homes are: hitting with an object (shoe, brick, iron rod, knife, etc), smacking, kicking, punching, hair-pulling and ear-twisting. The most common in schools include: smacking, hitting with an object, hair-pulling, ear-twisting and awkward and humiliating physical positions.

More than four out of five children are vulnerable to physical abuse from parents, elders and teachers, with boys more likely than girls to undergo physical abuse, according to the Pakistan Paediatrics Association reports.

“In Pakistan, corporal punishment is an unfortunate happening, which is widely considered as an acceptable way to discipline children. Beating and degradation of children had plagued the education system of the country,”

said Farhat Mansoob, a known educationist, who has authored a number of curriculum books which have been published by the Oxford University Press. She pointed out that severity of the scourge is much higher in rural areas than urban areas.
The corporal punishment in the educational institutions is, among others, a major cause of drop-out of the students. Pervasive violent behaviours among the people is also being seen as a repercussion of persisting corporal punishment in our society.

Education psychologist Asghar Soomro of an international non-governmental organization working on education in Pakistan said that corporal punishment is considered humiliating by the schoolchildren, which instills fear in their minds, ruins their self-confidence and damages their ability to ask questions in classrooms.

“All this seriously affects the child’s learning abilities and makes him/her docile and nervous,” he sums up.

Asghar Soomro pointed out that in such unfavourable situation, most of the students choose to drop out and discontinue attending schools. Instead of creating situations for the schoolchildren to drop out, they need to be provided with a congenial environment, where they get opportunities to further their analytical skills and critical thinking. For, children are inherently creative and inquisitive.

Photo by Saleem Shaikh
More than 35,000 (33 per cent) of the total enrolled children in schools across the country drop out of schools every year, while nearly 50 per cent of them run off owing to prevalent corporal punishment. According to the World Bank findings, in Pakistani male school goers receive average only five years of schooling; the girls average 2.5 years.

However, the dropout rate is constant as corporal punishment, uninspiring or dull teaching/learning conditions and failure to make educational facilities attractive in government-run schools over last three decades has led to a dismal outlook for the youth of the country.

Child psychologists have already underlined need to eliminate such practices of teaching and learning forthwith and replace them with modern and effective teaching methods. Because, it would have far-reaching positive impacts on the government’s efforts being taken to make the society non-violent. They arguably believe that only those teachers exercise violence against children, who are incompetent, not or ill-trained and cannot handle or adapt to different situations.

In modern classrooms, the teacher’s role has taken a considerable shift. They are no more pillars of knowledge. Instead, they are being described as facilitators in assimilating knowledge and in the sifting process to help students differentiate right from wrong.

“There is a pressing need that our schools, particularly public ones, emerge as symbol of hope, love and seats of learning instead of being haunting places for the students,” remarked Iqbal Ahmed Detho of the Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC).

He says that teachers also need to change their mode of teaching. They should entice students towards studies by instill into their minds the fruitful outcomes of studying on their lives and the miserable life of illiterates. Country head of Plan–Pakistan, Haider W. Yaqoob, has organised different prograzs for raising awareness among teachers about such changing roles of teachers in the modern class rooms and adverse outcomes of corporal punishment on the child’s overall personality development as well as his role in the post schooling social life.

He has suggested that there is also need to encourage teachers to avoid awarding physical and mental punishment to the students and rather adopt friendly attitude towards them (students). There are many who say that it is the government to play its effective part for weeding out scourge of the corporal punishment. a prominent expert on anti-corporal punishment laws Zia Awan said:

“Responsibility for curb corporal punishment at all levels lies on the shoulders of the government. And, stakeholders such as police, civil society organisations and the public should be expected only to make coordinated endeavours to ensure students in all sorts of schools are not subjected to corporal punishment.”

Sindh Special Secretary for Education, Waseem Ahmed Ursani, said it is high time that all stakeholders concerned come up with out-of-the-box remedial measures for elimination of the social malady once for all.

“He said the ‘Prohibition of Corporal Punishment’ draft bill to eradicate the social malady has been hammered out in consultation with key stakeholders and members of the civil society organisations working in the education sector. The Bill has been also shared with law experts, provincial government officials concerned for their inputs. Besides, a formation of a committee has been announced to speed up work on the Bill so that it is moved in the Sindh Assembly for approval in a timely manner.”

The draft Bill seeks prohibition of the corporal punishment in all forms and in all settings, and its commitment liable to legal action under the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and other respective laws. Educationist Farhat Mansoob believes that if the draft Bill is approved and enforced in true spirit, the scourge can be brought to an end.

She argues, “Merely issuing directives and instructing teachers not to exercise corporal punishment will not amount to prohibiting corporal punishment in its true sense. However, the legislation should be approved and enacted in time.

Courtesy: Dawn

About the author

Saleem Shaikh

The writer is a development journalist. He writes on water, sanitation, environment, climate change, agriculture, women development, human rights, education, health, development budgets and economy.

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