The incident of physical and mental punishment for students is still common in schools across the country in violation of the law and the government executive order.
Students’ psychological harassment goes unreported in most cases due to lack of proper monitoring by the authorities concerned.In some cases, show-cause notices are issued against teachers and such incidents are protested by students and their guardians.
Corporal punishment is easy to prove as it leaves visible marks on bodies, but mental punishment shows no noticeable marks, many parents said.
Seeking anonymity, some guardians in the capital said their children were subjected to corporal punishment in classrooms as they failed to do class work.
In rural schools, the condition is even worse as corporal and other punishments are common there.
Aritree Adhikari, a ninth-grader of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, committed suicide at their Shantinagar residence in the capital on Monday after allegedly being rebuked by teachers for using mobile phone during exams.Aritree’s relatives claimed that after the incident, the principal called up her parents and insulted them.
“That’s why, the teenager committed suicide,” a relative said.
The National Children Policy 2011 specifies, “All forms of physical and mental punishment in educational institutions shall be prohibited, and a child-friendly system of imparting lessons be introduced so that children don’t have any physical and mental injury.”
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid on Tuesday said the government is taking the suicide incident seriously as “it is very painful for all”.
Describing Aritree’s death as painful and tragic, Nahid said, “A teacher can’t torture a student physically or mentally as it is a crime.”
In 2010, the Ministry of Education issued a circular, banning corporal punishment in schools after a number of incidents of torture, caning and beating were reported.
According to the circular, inspectors, departments and boards of education shall monitor incidents of corporal punishment and mention such matters in their inspection reports.
Heads of educational institutions will take necessary steps in their own institutions to end the imposition of corporal punishment, the circular said.
The circular also said school management committees shall take steps in their own institutions to identify the teachers who impose corporal punishment and shall take remedial measures in accordance with the rules.
Contacted, Khandaker Farzana Rahman, assistant professor at Department of Criminology, University of Dhaka, told the daily sun, “It’s very easy to prove physical punishment. On the other hand, it’s very difficult for anyone to prove mental punishment. So many cases remain unreported.”
She also said, “We never take the matter of mental health seriously. If anyone goes to doctor for metal counselling or therapy, people of our society do not take it normally.”
“We often check up our body for physical health. But mental health is also important like our physical health,” she added.
She further said, “Families, educators and the society as a whole need to be made aware of laws and practices concerning children’s rights. Only then, society will turn away from physical and mental punishment and teach them discipline with love and mutual respect.”
Suggesting mental counselling for everyone, she said, “Not only teachers and students, all people need mental counselling for their betterment.”
Earlier on January 13, 2011, the High Court banned all sorts of corporal punishment such as caning, beating, chaining, forced-haircut and confinement in all primary and secondary schools and madrasahs.
Contacted, Tasmina Khaleque, vice principal of Morning Glory School and College, told the daily sun, “The matter of suicide is a sorrowful incident. As a teacher, we don’t support the incident.”
“Not only physical punishment but also humiliating and abusive word is also prohibited in school,” she added.
She further said, “Sometimes students bring mobile phone to school without informing their parents. Whenever we find mobile phone with students we seize it and warn them.”
“We tell them not to bring mobile phone to school. In most cases, they don’t bring it again. But if anyone brings cell phone again after warning, we inform their parents about this,” she added.
Asked about counselling, she said, “We conduct counselling for teachers for handling hyper active children. During the counselling, students, parents and teachers are present.”
On May 18, an eighth-grader from Gobindpur High School in Feni Sadar area fainted in class after undergoing severe corporal punishment by a teacher.