Scattered across newspaper pages and often glossed over with cold indifference, the reported handful of incidents of corporal punishment in Bangladesh educational institutions are far from reflecting the grim picture of torture and humiliation students are often made to endure.
With a High Court ban in place for eight years, government officials, child rights activists and educationists find published news on corporal punishment ‘only the tip of the iceberg’ as still many of these incidents remain unreported, especially in remote areas.
A relationship of fear among students, parents and teachers, unhelpful educational institutions, presence of politically influential people in school managing committees and lack of monitoring, implementation of existing laws have been behind this menace, they find.
The High Court on January 13, 2011 declared all kinds of corporal punishment like caning, beating, chaining, forced-haircut and confinement illegal in primary and secondary schools and madrasahs.
But incidents of corporal punishment are a regular phenomenon in schools and madrassahs.
On January 10, family members rescued a madrassah student in a critical condition after his accused teacher Abdul Qader Foyezi beat him up and then chained his legs for trying to change the educational institution, Raozatul Ulum Islamia Madrassah, in Lakshmipur.
The teacher went into hiding after the matter came to light. Medical officials of Lakshmipur Sadar Hospital said that injury marks were found all over the victim’s body.
Mina Aktar, a Dhaka-based domestic help, said last year she was forced to enrol her son, a Class IV student, in a government primary school in Lalmonirhat after a madrassah teacher mercilessly beat him for not studying well.
‘It was our dream to make our son a hafiz-e-Quran, which we had to abandon and despite lodging complaints with village leaders, we did not get any justice,’ she lamented.
Director general of Directorate of Primary Education Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal told New Age on Saturday that they were compiling data of allegations of corporal punishment from field level in every three months since 2017.
‘The number of allegations we get is very low. We do not consider this number as realistic,’ he said.
He said that as per the latest quarterly report, compiled data between July 2018 and September 2018, only 17 incidents of corporal punishment took place across the country.
A Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum report, prepared on the basis of news published in newspapers, a total of 1,079 incidents of corporal punishment took place between January 2012 and November 2018.
The number of incidents of corporal punishment was 42 in 2012, 170 in 2013, 175 in 2014, 219 in 2015, 263 in 2016, 118 in 2017 and 89 in 2018 (till November).
A report of Ain O Salish Kendra, based on news published in newspapers, 171 incidents of students being tortured by teachers had taken place in the first 11 months of 2018 while nine cases were filed.
In 2017 the number of these incidents was 105 and 11 cases filed, the report shows.
‘This is inevitable that many incidents of corporal punishments go unreported,’ says Campaign for Popular Education executive director Rasheda K Choudhury.
First of all, she points out, the students hide these incidents in the fear of reprisal from teachers and then the parents do the same as they are ‘hostage’ of the educational institutions, especially the private ones.
As per the HC’s directive, the educational institutions will take action if any students are abused by any teacher but these schools lack the will to do so, she finds.
The government should have brought all education institutions under regulatory network as it was the responsibility of the government to ensure the rights of education for all students, Rasheda says.
She also suggests coordination among ministries concerned – education, primary and mass education, women and child affairs and home affairs – is necessary to prevent these incidents.
‘Published news is only the tip of the iceberg of actual situation of corporal punishment,’ observes ASK executive director Sheepa Hafiza.
She says that in Bangladesh people care little about rights or dignity of children for lack of awareness.
She suggests comprehensive awareness programmes and strict monitoring of all educational institutions, including madrassahs, to prevent this menace.
BSAF director Abdus Shahid Mahmood finds that incidents of corporal punishment are increasing, especially in schools and madrassahs in remote areas, for lack of awareness and exemplary punishments.
He notes that most of the school managing committee members are politically influential and in most cases try to hide these incidents.
Not only the government and law enforcers but also the locals including civil society members have responsibilities to stop these.
DPE director general Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal states that if the government takes a zero tolerance policy against corporate punishment through strict surveillance and monitoring system, these incidents will become rare soon.
He thinks media can play an important role by revealing incidents of corporal punishment.
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