PESHAWAR, March 23: Kainat, a student of grade 4, was one of around two dozen students playing in the small ground of a school and sometimes inside classrooms.
They had come to the school only to play as the academic session was over and the results of annual examinations were awaited.
“We are playing here because this is our school. We are not scared that our teachers will punish us,” said Kainat chasing her class fellows at the Government Girls Primary School No 2, Gor Khatri, Peshawar.
All other students were also making noise and running after each other, while their teachers were in the staff room.
“Look at these children! There is no sign of fear on their faces because we have taught them in friendly environment inside the classrooms,” said one of the teachers, adding that once the teachers threw away the stick and avoided corporal punishment, the students would get closer to them.
“I have directed all teachers to teach students with love and affection and have strictly banned corporal punishment on the premises,” Nusrat Parveen, headmistress of the school, told Dawn.
She said Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Children (Sparc) had trained all teachers of her school three years ago about alternative of corporal punishment.
She said Sparc had declared the school the ‘Free Corporal Punishment Model School.’
“With the elimination of corporal punishment from the school, the number of students has increased from 300 to 560 over the last three years.”
Ms Parveen said once students realised that teachers didn’t treat them harshly, they would insist on going to school even on holidays.
“They are with us despite the fact that the school is closed,” she said while pointing to the children playing in the school ground.
She said the students, who were poor at studies, were made ‘class leaders’ that made them more responsible besides increasing their interest in studies. “We do not punish students for not doing home work or remaining absent from school and rather, we call their parents and take up the matter with them,” she said.
In classrooms, she said, teachers have displayed chart-papers of vegetables, fruits, animals, cartoons made by students to encourage them and increase their interest.
According to Nowsheen, a psychologist, corporal punishment instills fear in students and keeps their self-esteem low.
“It causes hatred among them against schools and increase dropout rate. The basic reason for students running away is corporal punishment,” she said.
The psychologist said teachers must do proper counseling of students to overcome their weaknesses and develop their interest through alternate methods instead of punishing them with sticks.
“Corporal punishment suppresses students throughout their life,” she said. When contacted, Sparc programme manager Imran Takkar said the performance of schools free from corporal punishment was better than those, students were physically punished.
“We have declared 75 primary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa free from corporal punishment. These schools are in five districts including Peshawar, Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda and Nowshera,” he said.
Mr Takkar said Sparc had also trained 5000 primary teachers in the last three years in five districts on child-friendly schools and alternative of corporal punishment and half of them were women. According to him, the National Assembly has already passed a bill to ban corporal punishment in schools. However, it is pending the Senate’s approval.
The Sparc programme manager said the enactment of the bill would help discourage corporal punishment in schools. He said 100 corporal punishment cases were reported to Sparc in 2012-13.
Talking to Dawn, Elementary and Secondary Education Department Director Rafiq Khattak said corporal punishment harmed the students’ self-esteem and kept them depressed.
“It is embarrassing for students when their teachers punish them with stick and other means in presence of colleagues,” he said.
Mr Khattak said corporal punishment had negative impact on the personality of the students.
He said the education department had already banned corporal punishment in schools and awarded punishment to teachers under the rules.