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Sir Frank Peters thanks Green Watch and anti corporal punishment supporters

Readers’ corner 2023-08-18, 12:38am


Every Tear is counted by Allah


A bouquet of colourful thanks to Green Watch and your readers Dr. Narita Chowdhury, PHD and Nasreen Dewan for your most welcomed supportive comments given to my ongoing anti corporal punishment campaign.

It disappoints me greatly that the scourge of corporal punishment is permitted when there is nothing positive to be gained and there is an unbelievable amount of hard evidence held against it.

I first raised the deplorable injustice and abuse to Bangladeshi children in 2010 in the now defunct Independent newspaper. (RIP)

Never for one moment did I think I would be shouting, screaming and stamping my feet on the ground about the wrong and injustice and damage it was doing to the children12-years later.

A major sigh of relief was heaved in 2011 when Bangladesh Supreme Court Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hassan sought to have it banned and declared corporal punishment to be ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and a flagrant infringement of a child’s fundamental right to Life, Liberty and freedom.”

I put away all the research I had been collecting – virtually closing the file – and concluding all was going to be well henceforth. Done and dusted, as they say. The file hadn’t been in hibernation for very long when out it came again.

The wisdom and recommendation of the learned justices had met with mild success. Some schools and madrassas complied, but not all. ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ was one of the adages that sprang to mind at the time.

Trying to reason with ‘teachers’ who should never have been employed as teachers in the first place is troublesome. The adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ takes centre stage here. Many ‘teachers’ have never received proper professional training. They barely passed their SSC, needed a job and discovered the brown envelope route was the quickest and surest way of getting one.

There is no doubt that many of them entered the profession with the noble intent of helping elevate children from their grassroots level of ignorance, but as they received no proper training and ‘learning on the job’ entailed tapping into the knowledge of co-workers no different to them, there’s bound to be disaster waiting to happen.

I’ve known ‘teachers’ who are brilliant at maths and successfully secured jobs on that basis. But there is a vast difference between one having knowledge on the subject and one being able to impart it. Children do not attend school to learn how brilliant their teachers are, but what they can learn from them. Einstein, as brilliant as he was, may not have been a good teacher. It takes a special attitude to teach.

Much of the corporal punishment in schools and madrassas, I suspect, is NOT because the children are stupid, but because the ‘teachers’ fail to explain in a way they would understand. The ‘teachers’ cover their deficiencies, however, by blaming the children for not knowing and if a child raises his or her hand to ask a question, the child risks being ridiculed and mocked in front of their peers.

If Bangladesh is ever going to achieve Sonar Bangla status, corporal punishment must stop. There are no ifs and buts, it MUST stop. It would be impossible to achieve Sonar Bangla status with a nation of mentally or physically broken children.

Our admirable legendary Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has done a remarkable job from extricating Bangladesh from the ‘basket case’ state as described by US Secretary of state Henry Kissinger. Her name is exclusively linked to all the new advancements on the planning board. The expression ‘one woman band’ considerably short-changes her activities. She’s more like a one woman orchestra! Seemingly, she takes no sleep or requires very little.

She’s often said that children are the most valuable asset and prized possession of Bangladesh, but there’s no law to protect them from brutish ‘teachers’, imams, or indeed parents and that beggars the question, why not?

In many countries (including Bangladesh) it is against the law to strike an adult, but legal to hit a child! - How preposterous is that especially when you consider children are the most vulnerable members of society.

If I had the power, in Bangladesh I would have all current employed teachers re-sit exams in the subjects they teach. If they fail, they’re out and if they pass, I would send them to a Teachers Training Academy (if necessary) to learn how to impart their knowledge properly.

All teachers should be employed on their ability to teach and not the size of the brown envelope or who they know.

Every professional teacher wants to make a positive difference. They want to be part of the Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Sheikh Hasina and similar success stories. They take joy and pride in knowing they made a valuable contribution and share in his or her success.

The other ‘teachers’ are happy just to have a job, go through their daily routine and are pleased their inabilities to teach haven’t been discovered.

I’m encouraged by people like you, Nasreen and Dr. Narita, to continue attempting to get my message across, but after 12 years of trying my mind boggles somewhat in disbelief and despair.

I have a strong feeling, however, that our popular and legendary Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will address this vital issue and corporal punishment will be banned before the next election. It would be a political prudent move for her, if nothing else.

Thank you.

Allah bless.

Sir Frank Peters.