Corporal punishment

Published December 28, 2021

IT is deplorable that the practice of disciplining the young in the country should be guided by antiquated notions of physical abuse — both at home and in schools. In this context, the instructions of the Federal Directorate of Education to school managements in the federal capital to acquaint their staff with the provisos of a landmark law banning corporal punishment in educational institutes are very welcome. The law was passed earlier in the year and makes all manner of physical abuse punishable. The letter, issued to 423 schools across the federal capital, instructs the schools to ensure strict compliance with the anti-corporal punishment law that was recently signed by the president, and calls for, among other penalties, the termination of the services or demotion of teachers indulging in this reprehensible practice. But is this enough to ensure that students are never beaten and are given the space, free from the fear of the rod, to grow into confident young adults? Will softer ways of ensuring that the rules are followed be pursued? There is, unfortunately, no certainty on that count. Many good laws exist in the country but are not enforced as they should be. For instance, Sindh, whose assembly has passed several progressive laws, is the only province with an anti-corporal punishment law. However, a number of loopholes prevent it from being effective.

Nevertheless, such laws indicate at least a recognition of the problem by the higher authorities and one hopes that schools will be compelled to invest in teacher training that imparts useful lessons in positive interactions with students. Though the recent law and the authorities’ directives are limited in their application to Islamabad, they nonetheless serve as a blueprint for most of the provinces to stop corporal punishment — which has even led to fatalities in some cases — in schools in their respective jurisdictions. Perhaps alongside the law there can be a greater effort to educate the public on how the cycle of violence is continued by those who are beaten as children.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2021

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