PESHAWAR: Eight-year-old Iqra resumed schooling in Peshawar after a two-week gap. She is now at a new school, quitting the previous one after she was brutally beaten by a teacher for failing to obtain what the teacher deemed good marks in a test.
Terrified at the thought of being flogged again, she had vehemently refused to go back to the same school.
|Eight-year-old Iqra displays her marks of the beating after being flogged by her teacher for not securing good marks in a test. — Photo by author|
"The fear, however, is still very much there," said her mother. "The incident left a very negative impact on her mind, and she has been unable to get over the trauma."
Iqra's family was not reassured even when the school principal — with whom they lodged a complaint —assured them that the teacher in question would be terminated. Their daughter's fearful state after the incident coupled with the negligent attitude of the school administration whom they blamed for the incident prompted them to change schools.
|After being flogged by her teacher for not securing what the instructor regarded as good marks in a test, eight-year-old Iqra changed her school and now attends Libra Public School. — Photo by author|
The third-grader is now enrolled at Libra Public School in the city area of Peshawar.
Recounting the ordeal, Iqra said her Islamiat teacher Nasreen Bibi conducted a test and after checking her test paper, she beat her with a piece of wood.
“No one came forward to stop her,” said the whimpering child.
"She is a good student, but the teacher conducted a surprise test which is why she failed to obtain good marks," said the child's mother.
|Eight-year-old Iqra displays marks of torture after being flogged by her teacher for not securing "good marks" in a test. — Photo by author|
Showing the marks of beating on her body, Iqra mumbled that her teacher hit her on her arms, legs and back.
Teachers big on corporal punishment
Iqra is among hundreds of students who are beaten for what teachers regard as poor performance in school tests.
Educationists and child rights workers say corporal punishment, which is adopted with the notion of disciplining children, has become an intrinsic part of KP's academic culture.
“In our society, elders possess the right to punish children when they commit mistakes; the same culture is followed in schools,” said Ahmed, a child rights worker.
Even though Section 89 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) allows 'light' punishment, educationists and psychologists strongly oppose corporal punishment and abuse in any form.
"Physical punishment and abuse creates fear among students," said Ahmed Ali, who teaches psychology at a private institution. He adds that it causes the student to develop hatred towards the teacher and the school administration.
"It discourages students and undermines their confidence level," he said, adding that punishment and physical abuse also results in under-developed personalities.
Not just schools, children are subjected to beatings at their homes, in the streets and even in bazaars.
"Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) need to run a massive awareness drive to educate people about the harmful impacts of corporal punishment," said Ali.
"Corporal punishment is especially common in government schools," said Farhan, a student of Government Higher Secondary School No. 1 in Peshawar.
"Despite being a student of Class 10, I don't have the courage to speak up against my teachers for such demeaning acts."
Despite child rights law, no avail
The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had introduced a law for safeguarding child rights in 2010.
Under Sections 34 and 35 of the KP Child Rights Act, all forms of corporal punishment are prohibited which is in stark contrast to Section 89 of the PPC 1860 which allows parents and teachers to punish children in order to discipline them.
Farhan said that the government has failed to curb corporal punishment in schools.
Corporal punishment — dropping out of school
The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) — a non-governmental organisation working for child rights — cites corporal punishment as one of the main reasons behind the high number of school dropouts in KP.
According to a rough estimate by Sparc, more than a hundred students in the past year in KP dropped out of school due to the fear of being physically punished.
"Teachers need to be educated on how beating and abusing students has a negative impact on them," said Sparc manager Muhammad Khalid.
"Sparc has provided training to almost five thousand teachers in five districts of the province, but it is not enough. The government should start training sessions to create awareness among teachers," he said.
"Corporal punishment is also strictly prohibited in Islam," said Nazar Hussain, who is the deputy chairman at the Education Council of Pakistan.
"Teachers need to cultivate a friendly and nurturing environment in the classroom, and teach students with love and affection."
Like other educationists, Nazar is also scornful of the government's role in eliminating corporal punishment from schools.
"I don't know any case where a guilty teacher has been penalised for engaging in these counterproductive acts."
Names have been changed to maintain privacy.