SIR FRANK PETERS :: At what point, when hitting a child, does it become physical abuse? Some parents and schoolteachers see no relationship whatsoever between the two. ‘A good smacking,’ some argue, ‘won’t do the child any harm.’ (Wait for it…) ‘It didn’t do me any harm’. How pathetic do you have to be to think that?
I strongly believe (supported by a mountain of evidence) the moment you smack a child (however light) it constitutes abuse. If the wagging finger of an irate person happens to even touch the body of a police officer – a person who is well trained and capable of taking care of him/herself – it is considered an assault, an offence punishable by law.
If wagging fingers alone were to replace the horrors of corporal punishment in schools, it would be an enormous relief and the answer to every child’s prayers!
There is no difference between corporal punishment and abuse. Corporal punishment is a pseudonym for abuse. (Shakespeare enters, stage left: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, meaning the names of things do not matter, only what things are).
Discipline and corporal punishment are worlds apart. While discipline is good and helpful, corporal punishment is evil and harmful. Some schoolteachers have (literally) got away with murder and horrific child abuse charges claiming their acts of horror had been intended to discipline the child. (Wait for it…) ‘For the child’s good.’
Since when has beating children into a coma, kicking, choking, pinching, confining a child in a room, burning their bodies, verbally abusing them, pulling their hair, pulling their ears, spitting on them, breaking their fingers, breaking their legs, belittling, mocking, embarrassing, swearing, cursing and robbing their dignity ever been for their good?
Corporal punishment is totally repulsive uncivilized behavior and nothing more than abuse. It does not teach children what’s right from wrong or in any way discipline a child, but promotes violence as an immediate and appropriate response to problems.
Corporal punishment must end in schools and homes or the nation is sowing the seeds of a heartless, uncaring, inhuman society infected with apathy, contempt, hate, fear, aggression disrespect, resentment and vengeance – a society akin to hell on earth in which no one would want to live.
One of the reasons why corporal punishment still persists in schools throughout Bangladesh is because ‘schoolteachers’ themselves are not disciplined and, in many cases, are just not good at their job. Many should never have been given their job in the first place, but while the pen is mightier than the sword, the brown envelope is mightier than the chalk.
There is an enormous difference between the idea of discipline and the concept of punishment.
Discipline is order and essential to the entire universe. It governs the rotation of the earth, the setting of the sun, the cycle of the moon, our food supply. It calendars the time to sow and the time to reap. The animal kingdom wouldn’t survive without discipline.
The cock crows, hens’ lay eggs, squirrels and birds set out to forage for food to feed their young in a regular disciplined manner. There’s no lying in bed, there are no weekends off. Their every moment is guided by discipline.
Corporal punishment never solves problems, just creates them.
Hitting a child only confuses him and frightens him; makes him feel unloved, unappreciated, insignificant, worth little, if not totally worthless.
While you and I might sympathize with the beaten child we read about in the papers – before moving our attention to the cartoons – we need to consider the consequences for ourselves.
The beating of a child might not seem important to us at that moment in time, but with each smack the seeds of hate, violence, resentment, vengeance and disrespect is sown and eventually they strike back. Even a dog if kicked and disrespected will eventually bite back.
You only have to look in the streets during hartals for examples of the worst human behaviour you’re ever likely to find anywhere in the world. Were these people born terrorists with such aggression, hate, vengeance and disrespect for their fellowman or is it something they learned at school?
Schoolteachers cannot discipline if they themselves do not know what discipline is. Three years back eminent Bangladesh High Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed the barbaric practice of corporal punishment declaring it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.
The law brought hope to millions of school children throughout Bangladesh, but created many outlaws within the teaching fraternity; undisciplined ‘teachers’ who only know how to communicate with violence.
Corporal punishment is linked to cancer, massive school drop-outs, mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, cardio-vascular disease, arthritis, obesity, wife-beatings, muggings and other social misbehaviour.
Research also show its stress can cause inflammation to cells, tissues and blood vessels and that hitting or even just yelling at children can trigger a significant chain of biological changes that can damage their future health. In turn, this increases the likelihood of tumours, heart conditions and respiratory diseases like asthma and less fatal, but discomforting and irritating allergies, rashes and suchlike.
Teachers need to be aware that ‘niceness is priceless’ and ‘respect commands respect’. You can’t expect to receive either until you give both away unconditionally. And it’s worth a try.
(The writer, Sir Frank Peters, is a human rights advocate, a former newspaper publisher and editor and a loyal foreign friend of Bangladesh.)