Anyone who read the news report this week about a 14-year-old madrasa student allegedly murdered by three madrasa teachers must have felt vomitus. If ever there were a case rebuking corporal punishment, this would have to be it. The poor victim in this instance was Sabbir Hossain, a student of Rowjatul Uloom madrasa in Rasulbagh Majhipara area. I am in no doubt the last thought young Sabbir had before entering into the madrasa to enhance his knowledge of Allah’s teachings, would not have embraced his own death or in this case, his alleged murder.
What actually happened is sketchy. The police investigation is ongoing and no doubt all will be made clear later. The person, who identified himself as a freedom fighter and an Awami League leader and requested the parents not to go to the police, should be utterly ashamed of himself – both as a freedom fighter and a political leader. Bangladesh freedom fighters fought to prevent injustice, torture and cruelty to people, not to turn a blind eye to its occurrences and brush it under the carpet. Political leaders are supposed to represent the interests of the people, both poor and rich, follow the law, and be exemplary in setting good examples.No child should be hit
While the eyes are deemed the mirror of the soul and the face a window that shows on the outside what’s happening on the inside, corporal punishment is singularly the best-known tool for measuring the evil within a human being. People once thought corporal punishment was beneficial to the individual and contributed towards the good of society and made people better law-upholding worthy citizens, but they were wrong. Once DDT was also hailed as the new wonder additive, the farmer’s friend and the saviour of humanity. It was thought DDT was a God-given gift as an insecticide to eradicate all the creepy-crawly pests that damage and devour the food mankind depends upon to survive until it became infamous for its environmental impacts. We’re now seeing environmental impacts via the corporal punishment route and any silly people who tell you corporal punishment did them no harm are deluding themselves. Children become hurt or damaged by varying degrees. Every person is unique with unique qualities and unique failures. They may feel hurt and pain like many, but never quite the same. It’s impossible to group them all into one category and apply the same panacea. Why would anyone want to strike a child because the child made a simple mistake? Mistakes are a normal part of learning.
EVERYONE, without exception, makes mistakes. Even our beloved Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni and countless others make mistakes, but nobody is beating them with sticks or pulling their hair. We live in a society in which striking an adult for any reason is wrong and unlawful. We’re taught this from childhood, in the family home, school, in the media (TV, Radio and Press) and at church, mosque services and suchlike. It’s an indisputable fact that civilised people just don’t hit people. So where does a child fit into this human jigsaw tapestry? Doesn’t the child also have inviolable rights? Isn’t the child a person? Isn’t the child a human being? In what sort of hypocritical society do we live? Only people old enough to vote matter?
In 2011, Supreme Court Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladesh and declared it ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’. So who came up with this crazy, insane idea that by beating children they would become better?
Powered by ignorance
Corporal punishment is powered by ignorance, driven by insanity and must have its roots in hell and executed by the most ignorant of people on earth - there’s no other logical explanation. Thousands upon thousands of studies worldwide conducted by the highest intellectuals all agree that corporal punishment has no benefit whatsoever. It’s a proven fact. If, as the evidence suggests, corporal punishment is perpetrated by the ignorant then one must also assume these same people are touched by insanity.The definition of insanity is doing the same thing (corporal punishment) over and over again, but expecting a different result. It’s like shouting at a foreigner, who speaks a different language than you and expecting the foreigner to understand what you are saying if you shout loud enough!
Corporal punishment is not just harmful to the child. Broken children may become broken adults who seek ways to take revenge against the teachers/school/society who permitted their abuse. (Make no mistake corporal punishment IS child abuse). They may, in adult years, raze the school to the ground (has happened), become muggers, beat-up the offending school teacher (has happened) and seek ways to off-load the pain they carry within upon others, become wife-beaters, or encapsulate their pain within themselves and seek solace and comfort by taking to drugs and alcohol, seeking to find an escape from the hell that imprisons their mind for years.
While we may take some pride and comfort from being outside the ignorance zone and are not guilty of inflicting hurt on any child; as members of society, we share the responsibility of protecting them, including the ignorant from themselves. Even if only to ensure they don’t return years later to steal from us to support their drug habit.
The time has come for us to no longer stand by and merely observe, but to vacate our bystander perches and become active to stop the rot in Bangladesh. Begin by telling your children, friends and relatives to say ‘no’ to corporal punishment in schools, madrasas and other institutions. Irish statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) summed it up when he said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Why should any government give employment to any ‘teacher’ who damages the nation’s most valuable asset?
Sir Frank Peters is a human rights