Bangabandhu addressed the needs of the people and became Father of the Nation. Will Sheikh Hasina follow in his footsteps to become a hero and Mother to all Children? – I hope so. Words without action is like a heart without a beat, writes Sir Frank Peters
We’re all familiar with the spontaneous ‘Oh, my God!’ heart-stopping outcry and hand-on-chest clenching moment when someone sneaks up behind us and bursts a paper bag near our ears.
It was a bit like that for me when I became aware of the speech made by the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the occasion of the 101st birth anniversary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and National Children`s Day 2021. The cavalry are coming at last.
Within days of the iconic Prime Minister promising a beautiful life for all children, however, one set of parents withdrew their distraught child from a madrassa in protest because an ignorant brutish ‘teacher’ had hung their 11-year-old son from a ceiling fan.
This comes hot-on the-heels of the shameful incident of a couple of weeks back when Sabbir Hossain, a 14-year-old madrasa student, was allegedly murdered by three madrasa teachers at Rowjatul Uloom madrasa in Rasulbagh Majhipara area.
And will the world ever forget the 14 girls who were scarred for life at Talimul Quran Mahila Madrasha in Kadamtali when the ‘teacher’ branded each child on their leg with a red-hot cooking spatula to give an example of what hell is like?
For God’s sake what is going on? Who are these horrible people to whom innocent God-fearing, God-loving parents have entrusted their loved offspring into their care to acquire and embrace the beautiful teachings of Almighty Allah?
A ‘teacher’ in a regular government school may be excused (not that I would) for subjecting a child to corporal punishment because of their own questionable upbringing, stupidity, and sheer ignorance. But the same abuse given in a madrasa is unpardonable. The evil is actually being executed in the name of Allah.
In 2011, Supreme Court Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in schools and madrasas throughout Bangladesh and declared it ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.
That was ten years ago, but (sigh) it still continues. Evil has no use-by date. There are thousands of children throughout Bangladesh right now who should be (and most probably are) grateful to Coronavirus Covid-19 because their dens of terrorism and torture (schools) are closed.
It’s commonsense: that a happy child will learn more quickly, and good teachers know that. A happy child will respect his or her teachers, and good teachers also know that. A happy child will treasure their time at school, respect their schools, and go on to become the upright standing citizens we all crave and admire… most governments know that.
A child who is pushed around and bounced against the brick or galvanized-tin wall by an ignorant brutish ‘teacher’, beaten and bruised all over his or her body, spat at, slapped across the face; head, body and limbs with a stick is NOT a happy child.
They grow to HATE school… to HATE learning… to despise, distrust and HATE teachers, hold society in contempt and trust absolutely no one.
They graduate from (some) schools and madrasas with a degree in HATE.
Forgotten nor forgiven
You can’t slap a person in the face and expect the act to be forgotten – or forgiven.
Corporal punishment is a violation of the most basic and crucial laws of a civilized society. No civilized society would tolerate or permit corporal punishment.
Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology, said that Islam strictly prohibits physical punishment of both males and females. So why is it still going on in madrasas?
Until recent times Christian schools (equally as guilty) offered in defense of their abuse and brutality, the proverbs ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ and ‘He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him’.
Scholars have since pointed out the Hebrew word ‘rod’ had been misinterpreted. Rod doesn’t mean a ‘stick’; it means ‘advice’. The proverb, therefore, should read: ‘spare good GUIDANCE and spoil the child’.
Pause reading momentarily… can you imagine holy men like Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Jesus, (who preached universal love) slapping a child across the face for any reason?
In her address to the Tungipara audience, the honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said: “today’s children are tomorrow’s future” and stressed building a bright and beautiful life for children by keeping them away from “violence, drugs, militancy and terrorism”.
I hope she means what she says. If there’s no follow-up action, they’re just an assortment of words that can be found in any cheap dictionary.
She went on to say, she is trying to prevent ‘violence, drugs, militancy and terrorism’, but government salaried teachers are actually teaching these abnormalities in schools!
A ‘teacher’ beating a child, isn’t that a lesson in VIOLENCE?
Thrashing and intimidating a child, isn’t that an act of TERRORISM?
MILITANCY? Isn’t that what the vulnerable and impressionable child witnesses and performs in later years, in rebellion against the cruelty and injustice of his/her own school experience?
And DRUGS? – Aren’t those the friends, the remedies, the child/teenager/young adult seeks out to briefly escape from the cruel world that offered him/her no love, no encouragement, no understanding, no respect and lowered their self-esteem to on par with worthless?
It’s time to get serious and make major change as we enter the 51st year of independence. Many of the social problems: violence in the streets, violence in the homes, disrespect for public property and so on, were unwittingly taught in classrooms and madrasas by untrained, unqualified, ignorant ‘teachers’.
Many of society’s ills – mental and physical – are directly related to corporal punishment, including school absenteeism, runaways, low self-esteem, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and suicides. The act of corporal punishment itself is the mere tip of the iceberg. We see the child’s tears and hear their loud cries for mercy and help, but the damage goes much deeper. There are countless other knock-on bad effects.
Bangladeshi Nobel prizewinner, Rabindranath Tagore said: “To discipline means to teach, not to punish”.
If corporal punishment isn’t addressed with the sincerity it demands, there is little to no hope of ever overcoming the problems of violence, drugs, militancy and terrorism at their roots. It’s pure comic-book fantasy to think otherwise.
It is often said the dream of our great friend and foremost hero, Bangabandhu, was to make Bangladesh a Sonar Bangla nation. The prerequisite for anyone’s dreams to come true is first to wake up; otherwise it’s only a dream. Bangladesh needs to wake up to all that ails it.
In her optimistic, inspiring speech, the Golden Jubilee Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina indicated she would address the needs of the children.
Her father Bangabandhu addressed the needs of the people and became Father of the Nation. Will Sheikh Hasina follow in his father’s footsteps to become a hero and Mother to all Children? – I hope so. Words without action is like a heart without a beat.
Sir Frank Peters, a regular contributor to Blitz is a ell-known crusader against corporal punishment and a a long-time friend of Bangladesh.