Horror in the classroom

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THE death of 17-year-old Hunain Bilal in Lahore last Thursday, allegedly at the hands of his
teacher, did not come out of the blue. Pakistanis should be quite used to such tragic
happenings. And these are the reported cases — the tip of the iceberg. In May in Sharaqpur,
two teachers were booked for allegedly hanging a class three student from a tree. Earlier, a
teacher in Multan was accused of beating a student and then letting loose a few blows at the
same student’s father, who had apparently dared to question the punishment meted out to
his son. The media is flush with similar stories from madressahs, and even from educational
institutions where women are in charge. Still vivid in the memory is the story of a class nine
student said to have been pushed from the school rooftop by two of her teachers. The latest
victim, Hunain, attended a private school in Lahore — only to be confronted brutally by a
reality that shakes people but unfortunately doesn’t stir real change.
Last year, the Federal Directorate of Education warned teachers of public schools and
colleges in Islamabad against corporal punishment. Throughout the country one comes
across rhetoric about ‘pyaar’ — affection, over ‘maar’ — torture. Although for some odd
reason the focus of these slogans has been more on the public schools, overall there
appears in society an acceptance of corporal punishment — with the elders fondly
remembering how this mode of ‘disciplining’ in school was central to their success in life.
Outmoded values continue to view a child as raw material from which to shape a good
citizen, rather than as a human being with at least equal rights to that of an adult. This
attitude encourages a ‘justification’ for violence among those who arrogate to themselves the
responsibility of ‘creating’ the right kind of individual out of a student. After young Hunain’s
senseless death, the Punjab education minister has promised legislation against corporal
punishment. This is the least that can be done.
Courtesy Dawn.

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