Original Articles

Violence in classrooms – By Qudrat Ullah

 

Corporal punishment is the gravest violation of fundamental rights of the children. All children need enabling environment to grow up. On the other hand, corporal punishments badly blemish their overall

behavior and also hinder psychological growth. According to a UN report on cruelty against children, around 40 million children succumb to some type of violence around the world every year. It is good that modern world has finally realized that corporal punishment is adverse to children’s growth and its better that students should learn without any fear of reprisal or punishment. However, despite its devastating effects, the social acceptability and prevalence of corporal punishment in public as well as private schools is a grave danger which should be seriously pondered over by the government & the civil society and a comprehensive mechanism should be developed to provide enabling environment in schools so that child-friendly schooling could be put in.

According to the National Association of School Nurses, USA the corporal punishment is defined as “the intentional infliction of physical pain as a method of changing behavior. It may include physical hitting, slapping, rebuking, punching, kicking, pinching, shaking, use of various objects (paddles, belts, sticks, or others), or painful body postures etc.”

While the government of the Punjab has officially banned the use of any practice of corporal punishment or physical torture in schools on December 14, 2010 and the same was done by the government of Balochistan on June 16, 2010; yet, both the governments have failed to develop subsequent legal and administrative mechanisms besides training the teachers and the students about its importance.

It is interesting to note that as many as 20 Southern and Western States in the USA have laws which legally permit corporal punishment in schools even today. On the contrary, corporal punishment is

strictly banned in all the European countries and Canada has also prohibited it as late as in 2004. Even in our neighboring India, where despite the fact that Supreme Court of India has officially banned the

corporal punishment in schools, a 2007 study conducted by India’s Ministry of Women and Child Welfare Development, revealed that two out of three children in 13 States, remained victim of some form of torture or rebuking in their student days.

Pakistan is no exception to this lingering menace which has refused to die despite the rise and expansion of mass media during the last one decade. Although, government of Pakistan has formally ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on Nov. 12, 1990 and other covenants including Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1996, and the Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of

the worst form of child labour convention (C182) in 2001, the ground realities are not changed due to official slackness or lack of proper implementation of these laws which require that proper institutional

system should be evolved to combat all forms of human ignominy in schools. A report prepared by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) claims that 35,000 Pakistani students are

dropped-out of schools every year, and nearly 50 percent of them, run off from schools due to the prevalence of corporal punishment. This is indeed a serious scenario which needs immediate attention of the government, media and the civil society organizations so that all forms of human humiliation could be eliminated.

It is a good omen that Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) – an autonomous statutory body in the province of Punjab, has headed out a campaign to eradicate all forms of corporal punishment from its 2,000 partner schools working in 29 districts of Punjab. Not contending with its mandate to provide free education to marginalized sections of the society through public-private partnership (PPP), the Punjab Education Foundation has entered into an agreement with Plan Pakistan (PI) to develop a comprehensive institutional mechanism for promoting public awareness against corporal punishment in PEF partner schools. Punjab Education Foundation has appointed three Focal Persons; one each in

the districts of Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi to kaleidoscopically monitor the situation there, besides inculcating the subject of corporal punishment in its teachers’ training curriculum. However, Punjab Education Foundation is fairly a small entity when compared with the Punjab government schools infrastructure reaching to 64,000 schools. As private sector enjoys 34 percent share in the school

education, therefore, any step taken by the PEF for ending violence in classrooms would be a small step unless and until all the schools are not involved in it. Unfortunately, corporal punishment is still

rampant in many areas in Punjab as society and the public has accepted it as a necessary evil to educate their children.

According to a field study conducted by Plan Pakistan in Islamabad, Chakwal and Vehari districts recently to gauge prevalence of corporal punishment among 8-18 year old students, and to assess knowledge, attitude and practices of different stakeholder related to this issue, the overall prevalence was found to be 89 percent, while in government schools, it was 91 percent and in private schools, it was 86 percent. Surprisingly, religious seminaries were less prone to this menace as the prevalence of corporal punishment was 83 percent there. It was observed that punishment is practiced during 8 to 12 years age-bracket and the most common reasons are because of the students making noise, fighting or quarrelling with their class-mates.

The results of the study presented a very gruesome picture of our schools and seminaries. The researchers found that harsh treatment and punishment are common in almost every setting. Physical violence (targeted organ torture, cane beating, stick beating), psychological violence (insults, name-calling, isolation, rejecting behaviour), emotional violence (discriminating behaviour, indifference by gender, ethnic discrimination), use of humiliating and obscene words, baton beating (use of stick, stem of tree, branch of a plant with thorns, etc), beating and shaking, bullying, forced to pose in a chair

position, confinement in a dark room, food restriction, standing in a hands-up position, name calling or verbal abuse due to differences in caste, religion and general discrimination and giving reference to

sexual organs verbally to humiliate the students, are some of the practises adopted by our school teachers to instil discipline in their students. Gender-wise practice of punishment was found to be different for both sexes. Results also revealed that male students do not perceive some types as punishment; for example, standing-up, ear tugging, hair pulling and smacking on back. Yet, the female students perceived these acts as punishments.

This study proves our failure in dealing with our future leaders. If we want a stable and prosperous Pakistan, then we must attend to the needs and requirements of the children, because no nation can attain rise and success by inflicting insulting behaviour and physical violence to its nascent children.

This is the immediate lesson; the whole nation is needed to learn.