Are the days of 'Maula Bux' numbered?

Published Mar 18, 2013 01:15pm

Photo: File/Fayyaz Ahmed

KARACHI: No more contorting the child's body into a 'murgha', no whipping from the frightening cane, notoriously known as the Maula Bux, and no verbal lashing. Children will, it is hoped, no longer be humiliated in class.

"They may not know it, but Malaika and Zohab have saved thousands of Pakistani children from the clutches of sadistic teachers who believe in the adage that you spoiled the child if you spared the rod," says Shehzad Roy.

Roy, a Pakistani singer, was speaking in the wake of a bill to ban corporal punishment which was passed in the National Assembly early last week.

"Malaika, studying in a private school in Lahore, was just five when her teacher threw a pen at her because she was unable to get the child's attention during roll call. It went straight into her right eye and damaged her cornea and led to detachment of the retina," Liaqat Ali, Malaika's father, tells Dawn.com, adding: "She lost her sight forever".

Zohab's hearing became impaired after his teacher boxed him in the ear for indiscipline, thereby damaging his eardrum.

Today it seems the government, which had so far been soft-peddling the issue, has finally made up its mind that physical punishment is no remedy for a recalcitrant child.

Soon after Malaika and Zohab's stories were shown on Roy's television programme Chal Parha, already a runway hit, the Punjab Assembly adopted a resolution for the repeal of Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which allows guardians to punish children in good faith ‘for their benefit’. The Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies then followed suit.

At the same time, Pakistan Muslim League- Q's legislator Dr Attiya Inayatullah's bill, which calls for criminalising corporal punishment was unanimously passed by the National Assembly. The bill had been tabled back in 2010 and had gone through "three years of rigorous labour".

Talking to Dawn.com, Inayatullah termed the bill's passage "historic". Once it becomes a law (after it is passed in Senate) it will apply "to the whole country," she said.

Roy is jubilant that the first step, at least, has been taken. "No one wants to be cruel to children, but sometimes we lose perspective. My idea was to show a mirror to the adults so that they can see for themselves what kind of hurt physical or verbal punishment can impose on a child," he said.

In the bargain, his highly publicised show probably helped push through the bill which had been tabled in the NA three years ago.

The bill has declared any form of corporal punishment of children in academic institutions illegal. Individuals involved in the acts will be sentenced to one year in prison, Rs 50,000 fine or both.

In addition, Inayatullah also moved a resolution which will be transmitted from the recently dissolved 13th assembly to the 14th one: The resolution urges "them to pass legislation whereby any individual, community or an institution which prevents a girl from going to school will be considered as committing a crime".

Interestingly, education departments had banned corporal punishment in government schools since the mid 1990s. Directives were issued to all government-run schools but unfortunately, the teachers were either never made aware of these orders or they were never taken seriously.

Ironically, the earlier code of conduct found in government schools allowed teachers to use various forms of punishment, including resorting to humiliation, to discipline a child. The bill calls for scrapping that and gives alternatives to discipline an unruly child.

While there are no nation-wide studies to show the exact percentage of children dropping out of schools due to beatings or being humiliated in school, Rashid Aziz of the Islamabad-based Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), said corporal punishment contributes significantly to the high dropout rate of children from the education system in Pakistan.

Inayatullah, meanwhile, estimated that of the "40 percent of children that drop out of school in Pakistan, almost 30 percent do so for fear of being physically beaten".

But it's not just the beatings in school alone; studies also show that a major reason why children run away from home is to get away from the regular beatings they receive at home.

While childhood abuse isn't the only factor contributing to a violence-plagued society, Dr Asha Bedar, a Karachi-based psychologist,  conceded that a child who is regularly beaten or given verbal lashings both at home and in school, would grow up to resolve differences in a similar manner.

"Yes, child abuse does affect how children resolve conflicts later in life. And that [physical abuse] could certainly be a significant factor in the violence in our society," she told Dawn.com.

However, she was quick to add that not every child who is physically or verbally abused grows up to be violent. "But there is strong evidence to suggest the likelihood increases."

A long way to go

Many people familiar with Pakistan’s school system, however, were sceptical about the passage od the bill.

"Bills will get passed, but does that mean anything?" asks Sami Mustafa, a Karachi-based educationist, adding: "Have they thought about how they will implement it?”

"Malaika, studying in a private school in Lahore, was just five when her teacher threw a pen at her because she was unable to get the child's attention during roll call. It went straight into her right eye and damaged her cornea and led to detachment of the retina," Liaqat Ali, Malaika's father, tells Dawn.com, adding: "She lost her sight forever".
According to Mustafa, even if the ‘Maula Bux’ and ‘Murgha’ tactics are eliminated in schools, how will it be ensured that teachers do not use other tactics to humiliate and degrade the child?

Senior journalist, Zubeida Mustafa, said there are already laws in place for the aggrieved party to take legal recourse, but added, these became useful only if a "child is seriously hurt" like in the case of Malaika, whose father took her school to court.

"We need schools … where teachers are trained and sensitised to the damage that corporal punishment does. Shehzad's programme will certainly bring more awareness but will it stop the punishment? I am not sure," says Zubeida.

What’s been done so far

SPARC, for one, has been doing exactly that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2009. It has developed manuals to sensitise teachers and school administrations about child rights, about this particular problem and to build the capacity of teachers to providing alternatives to corporal punishment.

These manuals provide training on class room management, positive disciplining and alternatives to such punishment.

"It's quite simple," says Muhammad Imtiaz, national manager at SPARC. "When we did the baseline survey back in 2009 we found that almost 85 percent of the times the child was being beaten up to ‘discipline him’, rather than for academic reasons. So we showed the teachers an alternative, like giving the child more responsibility instead of lashing out at him, throwing him out of the class or beating him."

Imtiaz said the teachers came back with a positive response and said the alternatives worked like magic and they didn't have to resort to harsher methods.

SPARC has completed this training in 75 schools in five of 24 of KP's districts (where there are over 10,000 government schools and 21,000 teachers). They will be working in three more districts and have built up the capacity of almost 5,500 teachers, which probably is just a drop in the ocean.

Imtiaz points out: "It is not possible for us to cover the entire province; we don't have the resources. Our aim is to show a model to the education department so that they can then train the teachers."

Plan Pakistan, which supports Punjab Education Foundation's 2,000 schools has already adopted their model.

According to Imtiaz, the best and quickest approach to awareness would be to include this manual in teacher training provided by the Provincial Institution for Teachers Education (PITE) to in-service teachers when they come for refresher courses. It should also be made compulsory for new teachers to go through it when hired. After KP, PITE in Sindh has also approached SPARC for providing training to their trainers.

In addition, SPARC also succeeded in setting up complaint committees in all the KP schools it worked with. "This is a problem-solving mechanism so that before seeking time-consuming legal recourse, the aggrieved party as well as the school administration can sit and address the issue at the school level. We also asked the government to set up complaint cells at the district levels and today, all the 24 districts have successfully set up these centres," Imtiaz added.


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Comments (23) (Closed)


Raoul Ciao
Mar 18, 2013 01:43pm
lo dekho, another secular idea brought in as a conspiracy to demoralise the pakistani students and make them weaklings. These secular western ideas will be the death of Pakistani education and enslave the children into a mindset of free ideas etc, and lead them astray. And also, children will no longer respect their stern teachers'.
sag
Mar 18, 2013 02:02pm
Its not a western Idea, It is a fundamental right which every child was deprived of whilst growing up!
Zafar Malik
Mar 18, 2013 02:21pm
Great news. This law was long over due. Physical punishment in our schools is always taken for granted. There is no doubt that because of this the very image of a school is turned into a terrifying, painful place in many young minds and teachers are seen as cruel wardens of this system. This relationship of fear and terror turns the beautiful experience or learning and exploring in to a necessary evil to be avoided at any cost. The result is a nation where even the many "educated" people hate books, learning and exploring.
KKRoberts
Mar 18, 2013 03:21pm
Very good satire-----Hahahahahah
Muhammad Ilyas
Mar 18, 2013 03:47pm
I am very happy to see the above article. I think the techers has been beating the students to cruel level. I remember myself that I was in Class IX in a Government School. There was a serious family issue which disturbed by mind badly. During roll call, somehow I lost my attention and one of our teacher came from my backside and hit me on my neck so badly that I fell down and got unconcious. I still remember this incident and always think was he a tecaher or a butcher?
Azmul
Mar 18, 2013 03:58pm
So you think Beating or infact torturing is the Islamic way?!
Stranger
Mar 18, 2013 04:09pm
I am all for it .When we were growing up, some decades back, life was different. Today there are more evils in society , more avenues to run away and escape. we need to stay 'connected ' to our children .Else its easy for them to get swayed away and 'disconnect'. We need to be strict but not harsh.
Amir
Mar 18, 2013 04:21pm
If you want a better student find a better teacher. Any teacher that resorts to humiliation and punishment is not a teacher let alone a mentor. Teaching is a step by step process, children make many mistakes before they learn, but those mistakes are experiences and teach them lifelong lessons. They more mistakes you make early the fewer you will make in later life.
Gazala
Mar 18, 2013 05:08pm
This bill is a first stp
Cyrus Howell
Mar 18, 2013 06:59pm
"Unknown gunmen killed a renowned poet, writer, scholar and the principal of a college in Karachi." DAWN What respect? Welcome to Pakistan's Dark Ages.
ExPakistani
Mar 18, 2013 08:51pm
I agree, I think we should also introduce laws to humiliate in public all those who do not wear foot long beard and miss their prayers.
aaa
Mar 18, 2013 08:52pm
To not give teachers free hand in child's upbringing is not such a good idea. Everyone who has studied in villages in Pakistan would agree that the teachers did beat but they took full responsibility of their students as well. Some incidences which i have heard are teacher going from school to a child's house to drag him/her to school not to beat but to teach out of concern. I know of one female teacher in a village who has her entire class living at her house for a month so that she can teach them during exams. Even though she knows that majority of these village girls might never work or go for higher studies. Though a backward and old way but can any law or professionalism replace or even equal these peoples dedication towards their students. I dont feel a slap or two is such a high price.
Yawar
Mar 19, 2013 01:26am
My teacher of Class III used to hit us quite a bit. She would also say "now you dont like me because I am strict, but when you grow up you will realize how much good I did to you." I have grown up and still think she was one of the worst teachers I had, not because she was strict but because her knowledge was limited and she did not teach well. A child will respect a teacher who teaches well regardless of how strict or lenient he or she is. It seems like teachers that do not make an effort to teach well resort to humiliating children and corporal punishment as a means for gaining their respect. Little do they realize that although they are instilling fear in a child's heart, they are also causing that child to hate and despise them for the rest of their lives.
Muhammad Ajmal
Mar 19, 2013 07:24am
It is now universally recognized by all educationists-Western or Eastern that corporal punishment leads to psychological problems in children and social problems in society. Phsical and psychological abuse in the form of scolding, humiliating and use of cane etc widely practiced in Pakistani institutions breeds intolerance. We need to respect each other's points of views-even if one is a child and learn to talk through reason instead of force. Legislation banning corporal punishment is a step in positive direction.
Zeeshan
Mar 19, 2013 08:00am
These frustrated teachers should be punished to the maximum. There are other ways to punish a student without being physical, let him/her not allowed for a days class, issue warning letters, but being physical is simply and purely frustration.
ahmad
Mar 19, 2013 10:36am
Yeh I agree with yours commends. we need strict but not harsh. Like in past decades whenever parents just ordered/or just raise their voice in any activities.we are all accept it and followed. Now a days, time has gone due to social factors. Love to child is very important but should be strict them in their education special but not hursh that can embarrassed them to avoiding from study,.
Shoaib Zafar
Mar 19, 2013 11:10am
We are citizens of useless system and need to cultivate the teachers!
asma lai
Mar 19, 2013 11:50am
great work and great article and i mean it.
Agha Ata (USA)
Mar 19, 2013 12:47pm
Maula Bux is ill, but still alive. It seems he is going to have a long life.
Malika
Mar 19, 2013 01:19pm
Amazing work. mabrrok. its very sad that a Karachi-based educationist is saying (does that mean anything) i think Malika s father should meet this guy and tell him how he feels that now her daughter can see from on eye. its really sad...educationist has never done anything to improve education in this country because they can't even agree with each other. its good that shehzad roy akila chal parha
miqbal
Mar 19, 2013 01:33pm
IT IS USELESS TO LOCK THE STABLE ONCE THE HORSE HAS GONE AWAY
Sajjad
Mar 19, 2013 02:54pm
Great job by Shehzad Roy in bringing the issue to the fore-front. We need students to be able to think on their own and feel free to question everything without the fear of danda.
Surinder Singh Kade
Mar 19, 2013 08:17pm
I started my education at Muzafargarh(Then India)My teacher was a M aulvi Sahip,who was very strict but cared and loved his First grade sutdents.He had a small cane(Chari) which he used sparingly and asked the kids to be Murga and put books on the back,if grades were not good. Thanks to Maulvi Sahip I got a good education,hot my MS degree from a top University in USA and retired from a good job.We were afraid that our parents may not come to know that we got punishernt. Not advocating one way or the other,but it worked for most of us Surinder Singh Kade New York