Schools re-opening – heaven or hell?

2021-09-10, 2:55pm Columns

sir-frank-peters-sirfrankpetersgmail-7ba41c54ef7f643cdf70ac04610140c31631264111.jpg

Sir Frank Peters sirfrankpeters@gmail.com

If we invest in education and our teachers, we ultimately invest in our children – the very fabric of society and future of Bangladesh

Love and respect cannot be beaten-in 

Sir Frank Peters

While the announcement by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that schools will reopen on Sunday, September 12, is most welcomed; one cannot help, but wonder what changes lies ahead (if any) for the pupils. Will the pupils enter a likeness to the kingdom heaven or a real-to-life abomination of hell?

This week a high school in Swaziland was closed indefinitely after pupils’ boycotted classes in protest at beatings some had received. (Like Bangladesh, corporal punishment is also banned in Swaziland.)

The revolt pupil happened at Nyamane. After lunch break, the pupils refused to return to classes on Wednesday (1 September 2021). They sang political songs and police were called.

According to the Times of eSwatini, pupils objected to being beaten for not cutting their hair. Some were so badly injured they needed hospital treatment.

Authorities closed the school pending a meeting with parents and police.

It should be fairly well established by now that corporal punishment has no place in schools, never did, and never will. It is evil and the work of the devil that uses ignorant people as his conduit to spread his sordid wickedness.

Many times, the honourable Prime Minister declared the children are the future of Bangladesh. Indeed they are the future in all societies and as such they deserve protection, even if only as a smart investment. Who wants to live in a nation of morons or people who have evil intent in their minds and actions? Corporal punishment and crime are linked. Domestic violence and crime are linked.

When Supreme Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hassan Arif banned the use of corporal punishment in schools and madrasas in 2011, they were drawing a thick red line under the ignorance and mistakes of the past, asking/telling the ‘teachers’, imams and parents to do the same and to move forward shoulder-to-shoulder in helping to create a Sonar Bangla… a better Bangladesh through proper education and enlightenment.

Cruel and inhuman

In their summary they said corporal punishment was: "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom". And one can add much, much more.

Corporal punishment is an outmoded, ineffective and educationally abhorrent means of correcting student behaviour and, as such, its usage is banned in most countries and in quality schools and madrasas throughout Bangladesh.

Those ‘educators’ who do not believe that dignity and respect for the individual are essential when interacting with students are doomed to fail in the classroom/madrasa and society suffers as a consequence.

It is impossible to reap love and respect through beatings. Love and respect cannot be beaten-in. Love and respect has a separate VIP entrance, through the hearts and minds of the individuals. The only fee acceptable to enter is love and respect. You show respect for me and I will reciprocate with equal or a greater amount.

I’ve never heard of anyone who was slapped in the face, say ‘thank you’ to the abuser or thought better of him/her.

A University of Manitoba report said: “Children who are given CP in school or in the home, spanked, slapped, grabbed and pushed, shoved, kicked, beaten with a cane or any other means of physical punishment, may be at an increased risk for developing mental problems later in life and it may cause mood and anxiety disorders or lead to alcohol and drug abuse.”

Corporal punishment is a concern for all of us - like the spread of a communal disease.

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.

When 50 pupils in a Bangladesh classroom see a ‘teacher’/Imam ‘lose-it’, blow their top, go berserk, and beat up a child, they’re not teaching discipline, they’re teaching violence. They’re teaching all the wrongs society detests, and, shamefully, the criminals describe themselves as teachers. Even worse, they receive salaries from the national treasury.

Violence begets violence and nobody welcomes a violent society of misfits. The next time you wander the streets, take time to notice all the iron bars on the windows. People are building cages around their private homes to protect themselves. This should not be.

Corporal punishment and discipline have no relationship whatsoever. Bangladeshi’s Rabindranath Tagore, who is celebrated across continents, summed it up succinctly when he said: “To discipline means to teach, not to punish.”

If a child makes a mistake outside school, it’s the duty of his parents to correct the child through good advice. If the child makes a mistake in the classroom/madrasa it is the duty of the teacher/Imam to correct the child through understanding and good advice. There is no violence, no hitting, or any other form of corporal punishment necessary. It’s just a simple mistake craving sympathetic correction.

Fabric of Bangladesh

It is common knowledge there is, and has been for some time, a huge number of teacher-vacancies in Bangladesh and there are not enough qualified teachers to fill them. That, however, could be resolved within a decade if there were more teacher-training colleges. If we invest in education and in our teachers, we ultimately invest in our children – the golden fabric of society and future of Bangladesh.

During this coronavirus pandemic there’s been sufficient time for the ministry of education to assess all wrongs of the past and put forward a policy to put all right to eventually welcome and celebrate a Sonar Bangla through proper education and enlightenment.

Good education, undoubtedly, is the best investment any government can make in its people. It never falters, fails, or takes a vacation, has no use-by date and it produces dividends for eternity.

Good education is the solid foundation of every nation and if Bangladesh doesn’t succeed in eliminating corporal punishment in its entirety from the education system, the much-hyped Bangabandhu’s Sonar Bangla dream is nothing more than a pipe dream.

For any dream to be given any chance of coming come true, the dreamer must first wake up. Bangladesh needs to wake up to the flaws within the education system and work towards accomplishing Bangabandhu’s magnificent dream of a Sonar Bangla.

May Allah bless all good teachers for their rich contribution towards the wellbeing of the nation.

Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award- winning writer, a humanitarian, a royal goodwill ambassador and a long-time friend of Bangladesh. Three Bangladeshi boys have been named ‘Frank Peters’ in his honour.