Lahore: Ali Meezan, 10, a student of Grade V in a public school at Batapur, forgot his mathematics’ notebook at home and his teacher severely punished him with a stick. Now, he is afraid of going to school.

“In our school, physical punishment is a routine matter and almost every teacher punishes students in different ways,” Meezan told News Lens Pakistan.

He wants to quit the school and tells his parents for admission in a local private school but they cannot afford the fee.

National Assembly of Pakistan had passed a bill in 2013 which prohibited corporal punishment of children in educational institutions. Despite this, many schools and madrasas continue to dish out corporal punishment due to cultural acceptance.

Corporal Punishment has been defined as physical punishment which includes spanking, flagellation, paddling, and various other forms of physical violence.

According to a UN report on cruelty against children, almost 40 million children around the world have to suffer some sort of physical/and or mental abuse every year. Pakistan, unfortunately, is one of the countries where this trend continues.

Corporal punishment at schools can be detrimental for children who wish to continue their education in Pakistan. According to SPARC (an Islamabad based NGO), around 35,000 high school students in Pakistan drop out of the primary education system annually due to corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment at schools is a major factor that contributes to one of the highest dropout rates in the world, which stands at 50 percent during the early years of education. The dropout rate is alarmingly high and it excludes cases that remain unreported, thus raising the figure to a formidable number. Although Pakistan is a signatory of the United Nation’s Human Rights Convention; which clearly prohibits corporal punishment in schools, the horrific practice still continues.

According to the SPARC-KP Chapter, seventy cases of corporal punishment had been reported from 2011-2012 across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, out of which 7 innocent children committed suicide due to the extremity of the punishment in Charsadda, Nowshera, Chitral and Timergara.

Similarly, in January, 2016, a video, leaked by school staff of Hassan Tayyab Academy, a primary school in Karachi, showed the principal brutally slapping a mentally handicapped girl of class 4. The video went viral on the social media. Likewise, complaints against The Tutor’s Academy by parents in Karachi stirred up a whirlpool in provincial education department, which made them probe the matter seriously.

The official ‘probe committee’ confirmed the authenticity of the two incidents and proposed the closure of both schools, since they were also operating illegally.

Conducted by the Society for Advancement of Education in partnership with Alif Alaan, a study says that 73% of the teachers agree or strongly agree that corporal punishment is useful. Overall the proportion of private school teachers (78%) who strongly agree with corporal punishment exceeds that of government teachers (73%).

Many school teachers remain convinced that some degree of corporal punishment is necessary to instruct children effectively. Several teachers have urged to resort to lightly thrashing the children as well as other milder forms of physical punishment in order to ensure obedience amongst the pupils. In most cases, parents tend to favor corporal punishment when it comes to education, especially in Madrasas.

Talking to News Lens Pakistan, Abdul Wahid, a government secondary school teacher, said, “It is important to keep a stick in the classrooms to teach students discipline. Number of students in government’s schools is really high and it is harder to maintain discipline. At times it becomes necessary to use the stick too.”

According to the survey report of International Centre for Research on Women and Plan International (2014), which was conducted between October 2014 and March 2014 on students aged 12-17 years, found that 44% had experienced physical abuse by teachers in schools and 30% had been locked in the lavatory by the teacher. Of all the reported incidents (20% reported to a parent and 18% to another teacher), no action was taken in two-thirds of the cases.

Parents and teachers who participated in the said survey were of the view that corporal punishment is on the decline in Pakistan, whereas students claimed that it is still prevalent and is justified as a corrective measure for committing mistakes. Teachers expressed a belief that corporal punishment is necessary for ensuring academic advancement and increasing the student’s academic focus.

While talking to News Lens Pakistan, a nine-year-old student from a local madrassa in Johar Town, Lahore, Sohaib Maqsood said that he was beaten by Qari Sahib (teacher for Quran Studies) quite often for various reasons such as being late at the madrassa, not learning his lesson, playing around and for not cleaning the madrassa. He said that he had told his parents about it several times but they did nothing.

Sohaib’s mother, Kauser told News Lens Pakistan that Qari Sahib at the local madrassa is a very respectable man. She said that her child is mischievous and that it is okay if he is punished for his wrongdoings as it is good for him to learn discipline and mannerisms.

In a 2013 study conducted by Plan Pakistan; 20% of the teachers fully agreed and 47% partially agreed that a small amount of punishment is necessary for most children. Around 41% percent of the adults and parents fully agreed and 38% partially agreed with the above mentioned statement. Three quarters of teachers and 84% of the parents agreed that teachers were justified in beating students who were disobedient. Also, 20% of teachers fully agreed and 31% partially agreed that small amounts of physical punishment do not affect the child adversely. Students were asked what was the most common punishment was; 24% said having their hands smacked with a stick, 22% said they were slapped on their heads or faces.

While talking to News Lens Pakistan, Executive District Officer Education Lahore, Pervaiz Akhtar said, “According to the instructions given by the Punjab Government, whenever a case of corporal punishment is reported, it is addressed on immediate basis.” He said, “The culprit is usually fined, suspended and/or in severe cases, the registration of a school can also be cancelled if there are frequent complaints.”

Nusrat Habib Rana, a psychiatrist, told News Lens Pakistan, “Corporal punishment in schools is a serious issue. Exposure to violence during childhood can lead to depression which, in turn, may lead to suicidal tendencies and/or drug addiction.” This connection is most likely due to the fact that the physical abuse, which is often accompanied by insults with the intention of disparaging the child, is not only painful but also humiliating and detrimental for the child’s mental development and self-esteem, she added.

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