Children in Pakistan have suffered at the hands of their teachers for decades, and some of them have died. Most recently there is the well-documented case of Mohammed Hussain who was beaten to death with a metal rod when he tried to escape from the madrassa where he was a student. This in January 2018. The boy’s parents subsequently forgave the murderer of their son. There are innumerable reports, both anecdotal and documented, of children being scarred, deafened and blinded by their teachers in government and private schools, madrassas and other places of religious education. So-called ‘corporal punishment’ has been a part of the education sector from time immemorial and it has to stop.
There is legislation on the books in all the provinces save Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) that at least seeks to curb the practice, but that is now potentially remedied by the approval of a draft bill prohibiting corporal punishment in all types of educational establishment, public, private or religious. The K-P higher education minister said that currently there was no law preventing the practice. Henceforward and assuming the bill becomes law, those that violate it may be subject to six months’ imprisonment or a fine of Rs50,000 or both. The spur for the bill has been parental anger at the way their children are treated, and it is worthy of note that it was civil society that brought the change rather than the provincial legislature itself. Without angry parents the status quo would have prevailed.
Despite legislation children are abused daily and right across the country. There is a paucity of officially-collected data as to the verifiable incidence of corporal punishment, quite possibly because it would amount to a sum that would be a crippling embarrassment — and indictment of — to this or any other government. With officially sanctioned data collection not an option it is once again down to those organisations that protect human rights and specifically the rights of the child to be the terriers snapping at the heels of the federal and provincial governments. Abused children often go on to be abusers themselves. Reap as you sow.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2018.