The year was 1973 – September 11, to be precise (yes, there’s been more than one).
I was walking past a Junior School in Melbourne, Australia, and minding my own business when my attention was drawn to two young boys, aged about 9, that were near the footpath on which I was walking. A wire security fence separated us. One of the boys had the other held by the throat and was punching him vigorously into the stomach with his free clenched fist.
I was about to scream ‘STOP, leave the boy alone!’ at the young practising-to-be-a-thug assailant, when I heard him shout and continuously repeat… “you will be my friend… you will be my friend!” at the boy he was beating.
It was a frozen moment in my life, both in lesson and incident, encapsulated in my mind never to be forgotten.
I did not get around to scream ‘STOP’ to the boy, I just watched, transfixed to the spot, in total disbelief. Right before me was a lesson being played out in real-life drama that you would never find in Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book, How To Win Friends and Influence People.
The lesson to be learned – it’s impossible to beat love and respect into anyone. The moment violence – of any degree is used – respect flees, never to return.
Yet it’s happening every day in schools – especially village schools – throughout Bangladesh by some little more than 5th-Grade educated thuggish-thinking ‘teachers’, some of whom have sadistic or psychopathic tendencies or similar disorders, seemingly, that vent their own inadequacies, failures, and hate of the world through beating the pupils.
What’s more shocking is that the education system permits such horrific behaviour and ignorant parents to do nothing to prevent it from happening.
It’s time Bangladesh grew up.
From time to time we hear pleasant-sounding, but hypocritical and hollow statements from the lawmakers that the youth of Bangladesh is the future of Bangladesh. One wonders where Bangladesh will be in, say, 10, 15, 20 years from now when these students are young adults, incapable of dialogue and debate and then resort to violence to vent their anger to get their message across.
Could this also be the backdrop to why there is so much violence among university students in the alleged ‘halls of learning’ around Dhaka these days? During the Soccer World Cup, we witnessed people converge in the streets following power cuts and behave disgracefully by damaging cars and other property and putting fear into law-abiding citizens.
Did they pause long enough to even analyse that the property owners were not responsible for the power-cuts? No! – The thought most probably never even entered their minds. They reacted in a way they had learned to react… through violence.
I’m not suggesting that their early schooling of corporal punishment is responsible for their behaviour, but then again maybe it is.
There’s an old saying “spare the stick/rod and spoil the child”. Another one says, “I have to be cruel in order to be kind” both are utter rubbish and should be left in the unenlightened Victoria era where they belong.
Remember my two boys story above? How can you beat love into anyone? Just as you cannot give 20-lakh taka to anyone unless you have 20-lakh taka to give, you cannot give what you do not have – it’s that simple!
Similarly, how is possible to teach if you do not know the subject yourself? Conversely, there are also many ‘teachers’ who know the subjects inside out, have gilt-edged beautifully framed certificates from leading universities dangling on their walls, but cannot teach if their lives depended upon it.
There is a strong utterly ignorant belief in the school system here that you can beat education into children and get them to conform.
Teachers, for example, seem to be pre-occupied measuring the length of students‘ hair and other irrelevancies. No doubt Albert Einstein – the most spectacular and extraordinary scientist in world history – is turning in his grave just at the mere mention.
Albert Einstein's elementary school teachers thought that he was a foolish dreamer, and one teacher had even asked him to drop out of his class. The teacher has long been forgotten (most probably never achieved much in his own life anyway), but the name Albert Einstein is immortal.
The dropout rate of students in Bangladesh is alarming. A recent study shows that half of the primary school students and 80 percent at the secondary level drop out before they complete their courses at those levels.
They are being denied proper education because their parents or guardians cannot afford the expenses, due to poverty.
Corruption, weak administration in the school management, and limited resources are the other main reasons for the dropouts of the students and poor quality of education. Surely these take senior priority over the length of pupils’ hair?
Add to that the beatings by the teachers and it doesn’t take a mathematical genius like Albert Einstein to deduce, there are no incentives for most village children to attend school. School represents misery, hard work, welts and sore hands or sore buttocks and scorn by the teachers. And, seemingly, there is no point of the child complaining to their parents, because they are most probably uneducated and ignorant, hold the teachers in high esteem as ‘learned’ and ‘just’ people and besides they might argue they went through much similar themselves and it didn’t do them any harm – hogwash!
People who think corporal punishment is not harmful are living in a fantasy world. The immediate thoughts in all of those who endure corporal punishment are one of resentment and dislike for the teacher, and hate for the school and system that permits it.
They then spend most of their life suppressing the thought, not wanting to be reminded of the pain and injustice of the perpetrators… a normal reaction. Some even succeed in ignoring the facts completely, the hurt caused and create a pseudo soothing comfort zone in their minds and convince themselves it hasn’t done them any harm!
We are all products of our environment. If we are brought up in a loving, respectful atmosphere, we will learn to love and respect.
In every child there are the makings of a saint. The environment in which they live is the mould.
Ignorance is an enormous curse. While I’m critical of corporal punishment and its perpetrators, I am aware there are many kind-hearted, respectful and respected good teachers who do not take their home-life frustrations into the classroom and vent their anger through a bamboo cane. Many are un-sung heroes of the nation.
I’m also aware it’s not easy to teach 120 or so in a classroom, I hail from a family of teachers, but corporal punishment is not the answer to maintain discipline or get good results from the pupils.
From the beginning of the school year teachers should seek to gain the respect of the pupils. It might take some time and patience, but it would pay enormous dividends. The more pupils that respect the teacher, the more will be on the teacher’s side and they will help maintain discipline in the classroom… because they respect the teacher. It is sort of like having your own army of well-wishers and supporters.
A family also needs to share the responsibility for the education of its children. A teacher cannot succeed on his/her own.
Parents, elder brothers and sisters, and the student, need to work in close harmony with the school in providing the best education that is available, in a loving, encouraging, positive and helpful atmosphere.
I recommend that a system be set-up that encourages parents and older family members to attend the school once or twice a year to learn how the ‘partnership’ would best work and to obtain guidelines as to how they can best serve the educational interests of the child.
Meanwhile, corporal punishment should be abolished as in most Western countries.
What kind of parent who claims to love their child sends them to a school to be beaten by a teacher who unleashes their mental disorder upon them?
Haven’t we witnessed enough deplorable incidents involving brutal treatment to students of tender age? One such incident concerns the ‘punishment’ meted out to a seven-year-old girl student recently in Bandarban.
We read of those that are reported, but no doubt there are countless more hushed up and go unreported. To whom does the child turn for help in an adult-domineering world?
If as the President, Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Minister of Education and other lawmakers agree that the children are the future of Bangladesh, shouldn’t these barbaric punishments be banned immediately?
We do not love our children because they are good… but we want them to be good, because we love them.
The greatest cravings of any human being is to be loved, respected, and appreciated. Corporal punishment just doesn’t fit in. You cannot beat someone into loving or respecting you; friendships never were and never will be made that way.
Respect commands respects. Corporal punishment commands no respect. It only teaches violence and ingrains despise and hatred.
(Sir Frank Peters is a humanitarian, a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, and an award-winning writer of international renown.)
An appeal to abolish corporal punishment
By Md. Kolil Ibrahim
The Financial Express, Dhaka, Bangladesh
April 20, 2011