Classroom and corporal punishment

"Children do not understand why they are being punished in such harsh ways, and they become reactive instead of understanding. Their dignity and self-respect are hurt, which makes them even more prone to bad behavior"

Earlier this week, I wrote about Teachers Day, and the qualities which an ideal teacher must have. A friend of mine, however, was not pleased with the piece. On the condition of anonymity, he narrated his experience of schooling, which still haunts him.

Reason?

Corporal punishment.

Let me be honest that each one of us has experienced classroom beating in one way or another, no matter if we are a slow learner or genius.

Successive governments have tried to end corporal punishment, which is defined as physical punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal or physical punishment as any form of discipline that involves the use of physical force and is meant to inflict some level of pain or discomfort, no matter how minor. Following the tireless efforts of lawmakers, the judiciary, government and human rights advocates, corporal punishment was outlawed in Pakistan in 2021. It was a historic move because it gave the voiceless a voice. Children are one of the most vulnerable parts of Pakistani society as the culture has left them with little to no rights. Moreover, poor law enforcement has time and again resulted in unimaginable horrors against them.

The ban on corporal punishment was first established only in Islamabad, in formal and informal educational institutions, seminaries, childcare institutions, and juvenile rehabilitation centres. A previous provision of the penal code that permitted teachers and guardians to administer such punishment “in good faith” or “for the benefit” of the child has been repealed by the bill, which imposes penalties on educators, caregivers, or other offenders who use any form of physical punishment. This is a significant development in the effort to safeguard children’s rights and dignity, change attitudes toward corporal punishment, and protect them from violence. In the National Assembly, the bill was passed with a cross-party majority, and when sent to the Senate, there were reservations from the religious parties.

The law has been passed, but there are still many instances of severe punishments resulting in serious injuries all over the country. Quite recently, a school teacher in Chiniot tortured a girl with an iron rod and later broke her arm when she was unable to memorize a lesson at the Girls’ Elementary School. In religious seminaries, punishments such as pinching, spanking, and hitting with various items are also used to discipline children. Such methods are counterintuitive, as various psychological studies suggest that using force to discipline a child actually makes their behavior worse over time. Children do not understand why they are being punished in such harsh ways, and they become reactive instead of understanding. Their dignity and self-respect are hurt, which makes them even more prone to bad behavior. Teachers, parents, and others in power who deal with children do not understand this at all due to the lack of awareness and the go-ahead from religious leaders.

In Pakistan, it is of utmost importance for people to understand how fragile children are and how impressionable their minds are. When treated in such harsh ways, children lose their self-esteem and also result in them becoming violent to those over whom they have power. This affects their relationships and work and does not allow them to become a well-rounded person. The idea of disciplining a child by physically hurting them must be let go of. Nobody who has been given power over the young ones should abuse it. Not only does this apply to schools and religious seminaries, but also to juvenile prisons. Children who are involved in crimes must be protected at all costs and rehabilitated through counseling so that they become better citizens.

Proper enforcement of the bill is of utmost importance as, currently, corporal punishment is being used all over the country. All those who resort to using it as a method of discipline must be punished and there should be proper checks and balances. Children are nature’s gift and they must be treated with nothing but kindness and love so that they become well-rounded individuals.

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