Saturday, 22 January, 2022
E-paper

Schools Should Be Sanctified Establishments

Sir Frank Peters

A school classroom is no place for misery, lost hopes and the grief-stricken tears of children shamelessly spilt. Nor should it be a colosseum where and the flames of joy, excitement, mystery, and adventures of learning are extinguished.

Schools should be sanctified establishments like churches, mosques and temples – the custodians and conduits of knowledge and truth. Places where whatever you see and hear is honourable and can be trusted without question. Even a whiff of the shameful ugliness, wrongdoings, corruption and skullduggery in the world outside should never permeate its sanctified borders.

In an ideal society, schools and madrassas and their teachers are sacred and should be honoured, treated and respected as such.

Schools are the most important playgrounds and learning arenas a child could ever hope to attend. They not only teach the vital and necessary academic concepts and skills every child needs to know to help reach their fullest possible development for living morally, creatively, and productively in a democratic society. Equally important, they provide pupils the opportunity to interact with each other socially, academically, and emotionally. 

To steal the pleasure of learning from children is shameful, a disgrace and a crime against child, nation and God. It’s one of the few crimes that are performed frequently in broad daylight, often with accomplices complicit in the despicable reprehensible act.

To subject a child, in any setting, to corporal punishment is cruel and wrong, but especially in a school or madrassa where love is often spoken about as being sacred and pure, but, hypocritically, rarely displayed.

Badge of Honour

How ignorant do parents and ‘teachers’ have to be to want their children or the children in their care, to end up as ignorant as them? Some seem to wear ignorance as if it were a badge of honour... their prized possession.

There is no shame in being ignorant, that’s a mere misfortune of circumstance. The shame comes in they trying to influence others into joining their club.

What I find incredibly hard to understand and accept is how some people (parents, teachers, guardians) resort to violence to ‘teach’. If we are all reading from the same holy books, the Quran, The Bible etc. which teach love, understanding, and compassion. Shouldn’t we be practicing the same?

After all, violence only teaches violence. When is the last time a family sought a husband for their beloved daughter with the pre-requisite that he must be masterly in violence?

The best lessons in all walks of life are taught by example. Do as I say, but don’t do as I do is hypocrisy at the worst.

People can recite passages from the Quran or Bible (etc.) as much as they like, but if in their own lives they perform the opposite, they’re walking empty shells next to no value.

In my 25-years of breathing Dhaka air (some days less polluted than others!), I’ve come across one family that is outstanding in every respect. Not only are they good Muslims, but also their actions speak deafeningly loud for Islamic teaching for all to see, applaud and, hopefully imitate.

I’m referring to the Tanveer Hossain family in Farmgate, which comprises of Tanveer, his wife Farzana and their two sons, Aaquib (27) and Hafez Aadib (22).

Tanveer is the principal of Standard Hajj Tours & Travels, which specializes in taking pilgrims to Mecca to fulfil their Islamic obligation. Not only does he take them there, but guides them lovingly every step of the way before their departure, during their stay there, and after they return.

Blessed By Allah

He is as honest as the day is long, an Ambassador of Islamic philosophy and blessed by Allah, no doubt. Tanveer sees it as his privilege to execute Allah’s work on earth and he does it with great joy.

I mention the Tanveer family to indicate when all hope for humanity seems forever gone; there are good people around to restore faith. Corporal punishment was never part of their disciplinary armoury in the upbringing of their two boys to the exemplary young gentlemen they have become today.

Not only is corporal punishment not necessary in disciplining children, but also it’s morally wrong and totally ineffective. It’s the weapon an ignorant, compassion-less teacher, parent or imam uses to camouflage their own ignorance and teaching inadequacies.

To discipline, means to teach. There’s no violence, hitting or chiding involved that may cause irreparable mental or physical damage.

It is a known fact and indisputable truth that life is precious. Coronavirus Covid-19 has reminded the world of this. Medical doctors and surgeons swear oaths to its preservation. It is also believed by many that children are on-loan gifts from God. Nobody on earth actually owns another person. Parents are merely temporary carers and protectors being put to the test to see how well they look after their Godly on-loans and judged accordingly.

Children On-Loan

If you loan a neighbour gardening tools (or whatever), you don’t expect them returned in a damaged state. If they did, your opinion of them would be drastically reduced. Similarly, if children are on loan from God, He doesn’t expect them to be returned home damaged.

We can make ample allowances and excuses for ignorant people (God forgive them for they know not what they do), but that privilege does not apply to people in positions of influence like ‘teachers’ imams and other religious leaders, who are expected to, and should know, better.

In 2011 High Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed the barbaric, uncivilized, ignorant practice of corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrassas declaring it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.

Despite that scholarly nation-benefitting directive from the highest court in the land there still appears to be a crisis of compassion in our schools.

For Bangladesh to advance toward realizing Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla, it’s time for a sincere spring clean beneficial to the nation, whether the lawbreakers are brown-envelope pushers, relatives of politicians, or not.

 

The writer is a human rights activist and a

foreign friend of Bangladesh