An appeal to abolish corporal punishment
By Md. Kolil Ibrahim
The Financial Express, Dhaka, Bangladesh
April 20, 2011

I have been a school-teacher for over 20 years and seem to be getting along well with the students, head teacher, staff, and parents.

From my first day of teaching, corporal punishment was a tool vigorously used in disciplining the pupils, and was seen in school life to be as natural as chalk is to a blackboard.

Last year, I read an article in an English-language newspaper written by Sir Frank Peters that changed everything. The article was written with such passion, compassion, honesty, sincerity, commonsense and insight, it made me question my methods of teaching and to ask myself if my methods were acceptable in the eyes of Allah.

I had found myself agreeing entirely with the simple logic of Sir Frank, although I was guilty of some of the "crimes against humanity" he mentioned. As sudden as being struck by lightening, I decided to change my approach to teaching; offer more encouragement, less condemnation, and no corporal punishment.

There is an adage that says "you cannot teach an old dog, new tricks", but I disagree. At first it was hard, my natural reflex was to grab the nearest stick and lash out and I did initially. Breaking old habits is never easy, but each time I felt more and more remorseful.

I looked into their saddened eyes that asked "why are you doing this to me?" I also reflected on my own conscience as a human being. I did not like what I saw and it made me feel shame and guilt. What authority gave me the right to beat another human being, one of Allah's children, and a defenceless child at that?

Over the years I have had parents actually encourage me to beat their children if they stepped out of line in class. All of these were ignorant and uneducated, an inheritance from their parents and their parents before them. I cannot blame them, but neither should I take advantage of their ignorance to vent my own private frustrations in the name of "good teaching". Where does my conscience fit into all of this?

Beating a child for any reason is wrong; violence begets violence. I often read of bag snatchers who are chased in the city street, caught, and mercilessly beaten to death by a mob. Did the crime deserve the punishment? I doubt it very much. So from where did this violence come? Are we Bangladeshis like walking capsules of violence that explode given the weakest of feeble excuses. And if so, from where did we learn such atrocious inhuman behaviour?

Is there any wonder that crime is spiralling out of control when ordinary, decent, otherwise law-abiding citizens and strangers to each other, can gang-up like a pack of wild wolves and take a person's life and in broad daylight? There is no honour to be gained from this despicable behaviour, but the question remains, from where did they learn this behaviour?

In his fascinating article, I believe Sir Frank answers this when he said: "We are all products of our environment. If we are brought up in a loving, respectful atmosphere, we will learn to love and respect. Respect commands respects. Corporal punishment commands no respect. It only teaches violence and ingrains despise and hatred."

Looking back over the years I have asked myself, if through my own state of ignorance, I have contributed to this decay in society by dispensing corporal punishment. The answer is yes. Sadly, other teachers continue to make this mistake, and care less about the law that bans corporal punishment.

Since I banned corporal punishment, I have felt great personal relief within and I have seen fantastic changes for the better with my pupils. They are much happier, they smile more and their school results have improved right across the board. Fear has been replaced with respect.

Last December a letter was published in an English-language newspaper written by four of my pupils (Shiraj Uddin, Abdur Razzaque, Tanveer Hossain and Ali Nawas) expressing their gratitude in public to Sir Frank Peters for abolishing corporal punishment and to wish him a Merry Christmas.

When I read it, I almost wept with joy. It was so beautifully written and I know it was sincere because I have the privilege of personally knowing the pupils. Sir Frank's reply gave the four boys great pleasure and an enormous morale boost.

TO ALL TEACHERS: I fully understand your frustrations, especially if you have not been paid in months, but corporal punishment is not the answer. It achieves nothing and does not release the pain you feel, just shifts it to vulnerable, impressionable and innocent shoulders.

I appeal to you to please abide by the law and abolish corporal punishment. Throughout my entire teaching career, I carry only one major regret. That is the hurt I have caused my pupils through corporal punishment and to them I say "sorry". I wish I could turn back the clock and undo what I did, but I cannot.

The writer is a teacher at an English medium school in Dhanmondi. He can be reached by e-mail at


Corporal punishment is a blot on Bangladeshi society

By Sir Frank Peters, The Independent, Bangladesh, July 4, 2010


Govt bans corporal punishment, Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 26, 2011

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