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Corporal punishment must be punished

July 07, 2012

PESHAWAR, July 6: Child rights activists are lobbying for changes to a law to make teachers accountable for corporal punishment.

According to Jehanzeb Khan, who is the regional head of Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), there should be a punishment for corporal punishments from a slap and twisting of ear to those causing injuries and even death to schoolchildren.

Of late, Sparc prepared a draft of a set of punishments for corporal punishment before submitting it to the Provincial Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education and Education Reforms Unit for consideration during amendment to the Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010, says Mr Jehanzeb.

The child rights organisation feels if a teacher beats up students, his/her increments should be stopped and in more serious cases, a teacher should be demoted.

“If a child is subjected to severe injury or is forced to commit suicide or is killed after corporal punishment, the teacher responsible for it should be removed from service or forced to retire and banned for life from teaching,” Mr Jehanzeb told Dawn.

The provincial elementary and secondary education department issues notifications to schools from time to time regarding ban on corporal punishment and even violent teachers are warned of disciplinary action but action against them is often not taken, the rights activists complain.

Mr Jehanzeb said increase in the number of children committing suicide had prompted children rights activists to call for amendment to the law for specifically dealing with corporal punishment in schools.

“It is shocking that earlier children used to run away or drop out of school due to corporal punishment but now, they are resorting to more serious reaction like committing suicide,” he said.

Of late, Sparc began compiling a database of reasons why schoolchildren commit suicide. From April to June this year, nine children tried to commit suicide and only one was saved.

“The trend is alarming. We all need to take it seriously,” Mr Jehanzeb said.

In May this year, the news of a 14-year old schoolboy from Abbottabad committing suicide shocked everyone. He reportedly committed suicide due to bad treatment of teachers at school.

Another similar case was reported last month in Charsadda, where a 14-year-old boy from Shabqadar area committed suicide.

The 8th grader took the extreme action of killing himself reportedly after he got frustrated at being bullied at his school and house for not showing interest in studies. The two sad incidents only show how children of school going age easily get affected when the environment around them is hostile and tense.

Abida Naeem, a psychologist at a government hospital, said stress, sense of alienation or depression due to surrounding environment forced a person into committing suicide.

She said only 20 per cent of the people were susceptible to psychological problems if their environment was not supportive.

Referring to the recent cases of children committing suicide, Mrs Abida said children could grapple with stressful situations by sharing their feelings with members of family or friends.

“Children feeling pressure of their environment, too, resort to extreme ways especially when they have no one to share their problems with,” she said.