GROWING up is never easy — though daunting, the journey of finding one’s sense of self, one’s place in the world, while negotiating the pressures and choices that will ultimately define adulthood, is an inevitable rite of passage for every child. While millions of Pakistani children today are growing up stripped of their right to education and the chance of a brighter future, for those lucky to be in school, the possibilities an education affords them are mired in the pervasive tendency of parents and teachers to inflict mental and physical abuse on them. Two years since a teenage boy sustained severe physical and mental injuries after being assaulted by his schoolteacher at Cadet College Larkana shocked the nation, the legislative action and behavioural change our society ought to have undertaken has yet to come. Meanwhile, more students continue to suffer in unimaginable ways.
On Tuesday, an eight-year-old girl in Multan succumbed to her injuries after allegedly being tortured in the madressah she was enrolled in. A young boy in Karachi died under similar circumstances this January. In May, a video clip showing students of Cadet College Mastung being beaten en masse provoked widespread outrage. Yet these (and many more) incidents disappear from our collective consciousness almost as quickly as they do from our news cycles. There are other insidious ways in which students are traumatised, such as through the inordinate pressure to excel academically no matter the cost, including the devastating psychological damage to young minds. This week in Chitral, three students attempted suicide on the day their Intermediate exam results were announced. The educational experience is supposed to be about exploring and expanding one’s horizons and critical thinking, about learning to confront success and failure with grace and resilience — not about being berated into blind obeisance or, appallingly, beaten to death. A society that condones corporal punishment, instead of cultivating the well-being of its children, is one that is dooming the next generation to failure.
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2018