Pupils’ Mental Health: An Ignored Phenomenon | 2018-08-17


Pupils’ Mental Health: An Ignored Phenomenon

Sariful Islam

17 August, 2018 12:00 AM printer

Pupils’ Mental Health: 
An Ignored Phenomenon

A teenage girl named Sumaiya Akter Maliha was very enthusiastic about going to school and learning new things. However, for some reason she lost her enthusiasm all of a sudden and was rather reluctant to go to school. Almost every morning she fell sick when she was supposed to go to the school. As this went on for a few days, this matter came to her mother’s notice. The mother asked her daughter why she fell ill at the time of going to school every day. Although reluctant and scared at first, the minor girl, a student of Shahid Faruk Iqbal Girls High School in the capital, finally opened up about her problem. She shared with her mother that at her school a teacher of business studies namely Rimi madam has abused and ill-treated her for several times. The teacher took away her exam script without any reason and gave her poor marks in the test. This is why she was not eager to go to the school. However, the minor girl tried to drive home her difficulty to her mother but, unfortunately, to no avail. Instead of lending a sympathetic ear to her daughter’s problem, the mother turned rather furious and rebuked the girl. Thereupon at night the tenth grader committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling fan in her room. 

Maliha left a hand-written suicidal note in which she accused the teacher of directing all her anger towards the minor girl and provoking her to commit suicide. Now the police have arrested the teacher based on the primary evidence and suicide note. On the other hand, the mother was now wailing, lamenting the untimely death of her daughter. She was regretting that if she did not turn a blind eye to her daughter’s problem, such a tragedy might not befall her daughter.

Indeed, the story of Maliha gives us an obvious account of how a teacher’s ill treatment of a student may affect a student’s psyche and a negligence on the part of parents may turn a child helpless, both ultimately leading to a disastrous consequence. In fact, if the teacher as well as the parents are not conscious or do not know how to behave with the kids properly, the kids suffer drastically.


For example, even until a few years ago, canning and beating the pupils by the teachers were very common at schools. A survey conducted by Unicef found that till 2010, corporal punishment used to be inflicted upon at least 91% students at the educational institutions in the country. It also found that sticks and canes were largely used at the educational institutions and nearly 88% students were bitten by their teachers. Teachers used to beat students severely because they thought that it would make them realize his or her mistakes. Many teachers and parents would think that beating is good for the well-being of the students. There was an incorrect assumption that verbal or physical abuse could result in the child’s improvement. Perhaps this is why the guardians in our country, while enrolling a child at a school, would commonly say to the teachers -“the flesh is yours, and the bones are ours”.

It is not only harmful for the students’ physical health but it also has an adverse impact on their mental health. Moreover, such practice of punishing students physically makes learning at school quite an unpleasant task for the students who, finding learning a tough, uninteresting and unpleasant task, lose interest in it and consequently many of them drop out of school. As Bangladesh's High Court in 2011 declared all types of corporal punishment at schools 'illegal and unconstitutional' and thereupon passed a law in this regard to stop it, such practice of physical punishment at schools has considerably reduced. 

Well, contrary to controversial assumptions of the past, today’s experts and educationists opine that it is an utterly wrong method to try to educate children by inflicting corporal punishment on them. According to Touhidul Haque, professor of Dhaka University’s Institute of Social Welfare, learning should be an act of pleasure; imparting and receiving education should take place through an enjoyable way. Children are not supposed to feel sacred of their study or exams. And this is the technique of modern education system.


In our country the children are usually expected to highly venerate their teachers who help them become good human beings. Perhaps this is why parents often ignore their children’s complaints against the teachers, as did Maliha’s guardians. But this blind act cost the family dearly. However, although it is usually done with a good intention, such a notion should not blind the parents completely. It should not be forgotten that the students should revere their teachers, but that does not mean that a child cannot complain or speak up against a teacher even if he is subjected to any inhumanly behaviors like physical or mental tortures by his teacher.

It is also to be mentioned here that mental suffering caused by insult or severe criticism is not less painful and harmful than the physical sufferings that result from corporal punishment, especially when it is used to deal with the school children. Rather the former can sometimes cause a greater danger and even become fatal, yet it remains a less addressed problem in the country. Sometimes parents tend to ignore the necessity of weighing up their children’s mental problem and sufferings, as that are not physical. Perhaps Maliha’s mother would understand her daughter’s problem, if it would be an obvious physical injury. However, Aristotle said, “mental torture is often more painful than physical”. Although parents of our country at the present days have become aware to some extent about the harmful effect of corporal punishment, many are still far away from understanding psychological problems.


In the meantime, whereas the practice of corporal punishment has been banned at school, every now and then students fall victims to psychological tortures, insult etc. if they are in their teachers’ bad book or incur their disfavor. There are allegations that many teachers harass the students in many ways if the students do not attend the coaching center run by the teachers. And if the guardians want to protest, they are threatened that their children will be rusticated from the school. Although ban on corporal punishment at educational institution has been declared and largely implemented, there is no law in regard of psychological punishment. Hence, it is expected that our ministry of education should look into the matter, take necessary steps and pass a law to eradicate mental torture at educational institutions. In addition, it is high time the guardians became more caring and responsible for their children’s affairs. 

Meanwhile the teachers should understand the fact that they are facilitators in the learning process, and therefore, need not resort to any kind of violent means to educate their pupils. It is necessary that the teachers are trained in non-violent and effective techniques of managing a classroom and dealing with the students. The teachers should build a relation of trust between them and their students so that learners feel respected and understood, and can recognize their own identity. Finally, what Rabindranath said in this connection is worth mentioning here - a teacher’s role in the learning process is “not to explain things,” but rather to "knock at the doors of the (student’s) mind”.